Singapore — Shortly after pulling out of its US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion) bid to acquire Keppel Corp, Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings and Leaps By Bayer, the investing arm of German multinational pharmaceutical giant Bayer, have unveiled a new vertical farming company called Unfold.
The firm will have commercial and research and development operations in Singapore and the United States.
Vertical farms are indoor farms that grow food with the use of artificial light, using much less space than traditional methods. A bright future is seen for vertical farming, with a market expected to reach US$12 billion (S$16.5 billion) in five years, according to Fortune Business Insights. This is because of an ever-growing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside a decrease in groundwater levels and the amount of arable land.
Unfold, which “combines leading seed genetics with the agronomic expertise to dramatically advance productivity, flavour and other consumer preferences”, will have its headquarters in Davis, California, and will have Mr John Purcell as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr Purcell is the former head of vegetable research and development of Bayer Crop Science.
According to the company, it launches with a US$30 million (S$41.15 million) initial fund, as well as an agreement for specific rights to germplasm from the portfolio of Bayer’s vegetables. The company will begin by focusing on innovating different varieties of vegetables with a view of optimising quality and sensory experience.
Mr Purcell wrote on Wednesday (Aug 12): “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.”
According to Unfold’s website, “Leaps by Bayer and Temasek have jointly formed Unfold to focus on innovating vegetable seeds with the goal of lifting the vertical farming space to the next level of quality, efficiency and sustainability.”
On Tuesday, news broke that Temasek had pulled out of the planned takeover of Keppel Corp, stating that the firm’s dismal performance in the second quarter of this year as the reason for backing out.
Keppel, which is involved in property development, ship-repair and rig-building, saw a net loss of S$697 million in 2Q 2020 in stark contrast to the S$153 million in net profits reported at the same time in 2019. /TISG