Stacked Farm is looking to expand its automated vertical farming model into new pastures after closing a $56 million raise backed by Australian and US investors.
The majority of the funds secured will fund the construction of the Gold Coast-based company’s next farm planned for 2023 - the location of which is set to be announced in the coming quarter, although the group has previously indicated it would build facilities in Brisbane and Melbourne next year.
According to the scale-up, the planned 7,000sqm facility will see Stacked Farm deliver the “largest output of leafy green produce per square meter of any indoor vertical farm in the world”.
However, the company faces stiff competition for that title from other emerging and established vertical farmers, including Brooklyn-based Upward Farms which is building a 23,200sqm facility in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and Jones Food Company whose Gloucestershire, UK indoor farm will be growing on a scale of 96 tennis courts stacked on top of each other.
Founded in 2017, Stacked Farm uses automation to run an indoor, vertical growing operation from its 4,000sqm facility at Burleigh Heads - a model it hopes will shield it from weather events currently crippling traditional Australian growers of fresh fruit and veg.
The funds were raised from a range of investors including the likes of US-based alternative asset manager Magnetar Capital in conjunction with Stratos Capital taking a lead role in the funding round, with domestic companies Tribeca Investment Partners, and Glen Richards and Paul Wilson’s Founder Led Investors, among the other backers.
The Gold Coast City Council also provided the company with incentives through its Economic Development Program to facilitate Stacked Farm’s commercial operations, research and development centre and assembly site.
"We are extremely pleased with the calibre of parties that have chosen to invest in our company along with a number of supply chain partners, highlighting the strength of our technology and confidence in our team,” Stacked Farm CEO Conrad Smith said.
"Stacked Farm will continue to invest in research and development to extend our commercial capabilities beyond leafy greens and herbs to include the likes of fruits and flowers.”
Stacked Farm’s expansion comes amid a national fruit and vegetable shortage, which has notably sent prices of kitchen staples like lettuce soaring over the past few weeks.
This has been directly linked to inclement weather in Queensland and New South Wales, which has also led to a shortage of numerous crops including zucchinis, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, spring onions, and berries.
“Recent weather events have reinforced the need for a concerted industry approach to defeating the challenges nature throws our way,” Smith said.
The Gold Coast-based company’s lead architect is Daniel Tzvetkoff - the founder of collapsed global transactions company Intabill - who avoided a 75-year jail term in 2014 after becoming a prosecution witness in a US online gambling investigation.
Tzvetkoff, who was 31 at the time, was originally facing the sentence for bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business, but avoided that when he agreed to work with US authorities to shut down the operations of online gambling companies PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
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