John Purcell, CEO of Unfold ( Leaps by Bayer )

Vertical farming, the bastion of tech start-ups, has attracted the attention of global company Bayer AG, with plans to develop vegetable varieties suited to that indoor farming model.

Leaps by Bayer, the Bayer AG “impact investment arm,” and Temasek, an investment company headquartered in Singapore, have formed Unfold to target innovation of vegetable varieties designed for vertical farms. according to a news release.

Led by CEO John Purcell, Unfold will be a U.S. company in the Davis, Calif., area. The company will have commercial research and development operations in California and Singapore. 

Unfold raised $30 million in the initial funding round and entered into an agreement for certain rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio, according to the release.

Purcell said Unfold will focus on investment in germplasm and research on crop growth models best suited for vertical farming.

“As a company fully focused on the vertical farming industry, Unfold will combine leading seed genetics with the best ag tech experts in order to dramatically advance productivity, flavor and other consumer preferences,” Purcell said in the release. 

Innovation that offers sustainable solutions for agriculture is one of the 10 areas of engagement and investment that Leaps by Bayer is focused on, Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, said in the release.

Vertical farms can reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and and other crop inputs, optimize water use and allow production in challenging environments with limited arable land. Production cycles are also shorter, according to the release.

Investments in vertical farms have increased significantly.
“The global food challenges we increasingly face require us to rethink traditional farming practices,” John Vaske, head of agribusiness at Temasek, said in the release. 

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