Freight Farms announces new horticultural funding from Ospraie Ag Science

March 2, 2020
A Series B venture round of $15 million will allow Freight Farms to invest in plant science, add features to its software control platforms, and expand the customer base for its vertical farms housed in shipping containers.

Shipping-container-based, vertical-farm manufacturer Freight Farms has announced that it received $15 million in Series B venture funding from investment firm Ospraie Ag Science. Freight Farms will use the investment to further optimize its Farmhand software platform, invest in plant science, and expand the customer base for its LED-lit Greenery container farms.

Freight Farms originally branded its container farms The Leafy Green Machine, but has since simplified the product name to the Greenery. A Greenery farm includes everything a grower needs to launch a hydroponic farm all integrated into a shipping container. The outfitted Greenery container includes LED lighting, plumbing for nutrient supply, climate and environmental control, and the Farmhand software to automate the operation of the farm.

The idea of a shipping container for a vertical farm is not a new one. For example, we covered a Dallas grocery store that uses a shipping-container farm to grow some produce right outside the store’s back door. And we covered a Los Angeles area farm using shipping containers right in the downtown metropolitan area back in 2016.

Freight Farms, however, brings unique aspects to its business both in the science behind Greenery and in the company’s business model. Taking the business model first, Freight Farms is specifically in the business of selling turnkey farms. Some other players have vacillated between selling technology and operating as growers.

The configuration of Freight Farms product is also unique. When we first covered vertical farming back in 2016, the term was primarily utilized to describe growing operations where horizontal trays of plants were stacked in layers vertically to more fully utilize a space, especially for crops such as leafy greens and herbs where there is not much space needed between layers and where LEDs that don’t radiate heat can be placed in close proximity to the plant canopy.

We have since seen other concepts. Plenty, for example, is based in California’s Silicon Valley Area, has received more than 200 million in funding from well-known investors such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and utilizes a system where plants are placed horizontally into the growing structure but run continuously in a vertical row from floor to ceiling.

Freight Farms partitions its systems in the close confines of the shipping container. There is a dedicated are where horizontal racks are used in the initial stages of sprouting. But later plants are transplanted into a vertical row structure where nutrients can drip from the top of each vertical row of plants and unused nutrient is recaptured at the bottom of each row.

Freight Farms said its 328-ft2 container can produce equivalent vegetables to a two-acre outdoor plot. And the container farm uses less than five gallons of water per day. For Freight Farms, the mission is solving the looming issue of feeding a growing global population. “With the Greenery and Farmhand, we’ve created an infrastructure that lowers the barrier of entry into food production, an industry that’s historically been difficult to get into,” said Jon Friedman, Freight Farms COO. “With this platform, we’re also able to harness and build upon a wider set of technologies including cloud IoT, automation, and machine learning, while enabling new developments in plant science for future generations.”

And make no mistake that controlled environment agriculture farming is becoming a big business. We recently ran an article that discussed the investment capital coming into the market. Clearly, Ospraie sees an opportunity in the container concept. Freight Farms says it has sold farms into 44 states and 25 countries.

“Freight Farms has redefined vertical farming and made decentralizing the food system something that’s possible and meaningful right now, not in the future of food,” said Jason Mraz, president of Ospraie Ag Science. “Full traceability, high nutrition without herbicides and pesticides, year-round sourcing – these are elements that should be inherent to food sourcing. Freight Farms’ Greenery makes it possible to meet this burgeoning demand globally for campuses, hospitals, municipal institutions, and corporate businesses, while also enabling small business farmers to meet these demands themselves for their customers.”

About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.