VC-backed Freight Farms grows into new markets, moves HQ

The Spark portfolio company is venturing into new business channels as demand grows for indoor farming produce.

Freight Farms, a hydroponic indoor farming company, will focus on servicing new business sectors after seeing increasing demand from restaurants, schools, universities and non-profits.

“As Freight Farms continues to grow, it will not turn its back on the small business farmers who gave it its start,” said the company, which converts shipping containers into internet-connected growing spaces to produce green leafy vegetables hydroponically. “This channel is still growing as traditional farmers adopt Freight Farms’ technology.”

However, interest from larger entities has led the company to expand its focus on new business channels and a decision to move Freight Farms’ corporate headquarters to new offices in the Boston area.

“With the new office comes a new company direction,” Freight Farms said without elaborating further. The company was not immediately available for comment.

Freight Farms is backed by Spark Capital, a venture capital firm which to date has led two financing rounds for Freight Farms totaling $11 million. Other investors include Launch Capital as well as start-up accelerators Techstars and MassChallenge, bringing the total funds Freight Farms has raised as of June 2017 to $12 million.

In addition to the US, Dubai, the Netherlands and the Caribbean, Freight Farms also has a presence in Canada. To date, it has more than 150 farms in operation.

Outer-space farming

Founded in 2010, the company initially served small business farmers, who acquired its flagship product, the Leafy Green Machine. The vertical hydroponic growing facility, which is built inside re-purposed containers, allows farmers to grow fresh vegetables and herbs year-round, regardless of environment or weather conditions. According to the company, LGMs are currently operating in climates ranging from -40 degrees to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the past year, Freight Farms has been working with major institutional food service providers Compass Group and Sodexo. As a result, sixteen businesses and campuses launched Leafy Green Machines during that time.

“By focusing on this channel, Freight Farms hopes to bring the LGM to many more communities, spreading sustainable farming methods to a broader audience,” the company said.

Other milestones achieved since April 2016 include a partnership with Clemson University and NASA to explore self-sustaining crop production units in extreme climates and outer space; a tie-up with a Netherlands-based major agricultural supplier to service Europe; expansions into Dubai and the Caribbean; and a partnership with Federal Realty Investment Trust that involves setting up LGMs in unused parking areas to bring urban farming to shopping centers throughout the US.

In addition to enabling farmers to grow food year-round, Freight Farms also allows users to schedule, track and control all farming components remotely through Farmhand, its technology platform.