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UNFOLD LAUNCHED: Plant Science and Digital Innovation are the Keys to Unlocking the Great Potential of Vertical Farming

John Purcell
Aug 12 · 3 min read

I’m excited to announce that today we launched Unfold, a new company in the vertical farming industry, that will help bring fresher and more sustainable produce to market. Unfold is made possible by significant investments by Leaps by Bayer and Temasek. Having spent the last several years at Bayer Crop Science as Head of Vegetables R&D along with my career-long work exploring cutting edge agricultural technologies, this role as CEO and President of Unfold couldn’t feel like a more perfect match.

Our mission is clear — to improve the food ecosystem as we help farm operators and retailers deliver on the promise of vertical farming. As the first and only company with unparalleled assets to unlock the genetic components of vertical farming, Unfold has a greenfield opportunity within the industry to drive its continued growth and success. While vertical farming has tremendous potential, it has lacked the power of seeds and digital solutions developed specifically for this sector. Enter Unfold, which offers a unique value proposition to unlock the true potential for vertical farms/farmers, the retail industry, and consumers.

The Promise of Vertical Farming

Over $1B US dollars have been invested in vertical farming operations and technologies around the globe. That’s because investors realize the intrinsic appeal of producing food where people live.

For the consumer, there is a tangible desire to enjoy fresh, local produce that tastes great. Vertical farms located in or near urban centers eliminate the need to ship produce long distances and ensure that those fruits and vegetables keep longer, and ultimately taste better.

For retailers, both conventional and e-commerce, production sites located near distribution or fulfillment centers allow them to stock fresh local vegetables in their stores as well as deliver them right to their customers’ doorsteps. Vertical farming also enables a consistent, high-quality product year-round since weather and environmental conditions have no impact on the crops.

For cities, regions, and nations with food security issues, vertical farming helps to deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables, thus reducing the need to import. For the sustainably conscious, vertical farming reduces water, pesticides, and other tools required to grow a crop under less controlled conditions.

Why Advanced Breeding Technologies are Key

Modern biology has driven phenomenal progress for agriculture over the last few decades. It has offered plant breeders the ability to utilize an entirely new suite of technologies, in the field, laboratory, and in silico to drive innovation. As a result, new produce varieties are reaching the marketplace faster.

Digital tools are increasingly being used to help guide and manage how a crop is grown, in addition to enhancing their productivity and quality. With its powerful combination of assets — world-class germplasm, agronomic expertise, and state of the art data and analytics tools — Unfold is able to harness the power of modern biology and digital agriculture to provide solutions specifically dedicated to the vertical farming industry.

Collaborations will Yield Great Dividends

Vertical farming has tremendous potential to help growers address future food security challenges as well as meet changing consumer preference demands. But in order to reach those heights, vertical farm operators need improved seed genetics and digital crop management tools. Future collaborations between Unfold, controlled-environment system providers, vertical farmers, and food retailers will lead to the development of valuable new products, bringing fresh, local, delicious fruits and vegetables to our homes and driving the growth of this exciting new segment of the produce industry.

I’m incredibly proud to have Unfold officially out into the world and finally be able to share our leading seed genetics with crop growing and agronomic expertise to advance the vertical farming industry. We’re assembling a world-class team, and if you’d like to learn more, just drop me a line. We’re just “sprouting” and can’t wait to show you more.

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