Foresight Group, a sustainability-led alternative investment manager, has reached an agreement with Harvest London, a UK-based controlled environment agriculture company, to aid the expansion of the vertical farming industry.
Founded in 2017 by Matt Chlebek and Chris Davies, Harvest London opened its first, proof-of-concept farm, in Walthamstow in 2018. After crowdfunding through Seedrs, the company opened its second farm in Leyton in late 2020. According to Sky News, the vertical farm start-up has successfully transformed a £500,000 loan received from the government’s Future Fund into equity shares.
Harvest London is a B Corporation, having gone through a rigorous accreditation process requiring it to display socially and environmentally responsible practices relating to areas including water use and waste, staff pay and corporate transparency. The firm has grown over 100 different crops using hydroponic vertical farming techniques, and partnered with brands including Pizza Pilgrims and Compass Group.
The investment will allow Harvest London to expand its current operations, enabling it to supply a range of salads and herbs to customers in London and beyond.
Harvest and Foresight have secured a 140,000 square feet unit in Beddington, South London and are currently developing a vertical farm for that space.
Expansion of Harvest London’s production capacity, supported by Foresight, is driven by the increasing need for locally grown produce and strong positive feedback from Harvest London’s existing customers. It will allow the grower to expand into key retail markets.
With concerns growing about the security and sustainability of food systems, new farming methods are needed to reduce the negative environmental impacts of food production, including supply chain emissions, land and water use, and soil degradation. The investment in Harvest London follows investments by Foresight in greenhouses in the UK and a land-based sustainable aquaculture farm in Norway.
Commenting on the announcement, Matt Hammond, partner at Foresight, said: “Foresight is delighted to be working with Harvest London, a dynamic and growing company that will help the vital push towards a greener future for food production. This approach to farming will play a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable future and meeting the country’s food needs. The next phase of expansion will positively impact job creation and stimulate the local economy.”
Chris Davies, founder of Harvest London, added: “This investment is a sign that the vertical farming sector in the UK is maturing. While you might not yet have tasted something grown in a vertical farm, in the future this type of produce is going to be on your menu, whether that’s from a supermarket, in prepared food, or eating out. Vertical farming is a technology that can complement British agriculture, helping us reduce our reliance on food imports, and give consumers fresher, more local ingredients. We want to make the UK a world-leader in this exciting new industry.”
Harvest London’s indoor vertical farming approach delivers crops all year round of a consistently high quality, using no chemical pesticides, significantly reducing amount of fertiliser needed, avoiding agricultural pollution of rivers, and dramatically shortening supply chains This reduces the emissions from the transportation, processing, and refrigeration of food, whilst increasing the shelf life and reducing wastage.
The company has grown over 100 different crops, including herbs, salads and specialist ingredients, and supplied restaurant and food service groups, meal kit providers and food manufacturers. It aims to build a network of data-driven vertical farms, transforming the sustainability of food in our cities.