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Next up: proprietary strawberries and other non-leafy produce

Agtech investment firm AgFunder announced this week that it has added agtech company SinGrow to its investment portfolio for an undisclosed sum. AgFunder founding partner Michael Dean wrote in a post that SinGrow “isn’t just looking to be another vertical farmer selling leafy greens.” Instead, the company uses a combination of plant biology, hydroponic vertical farming, and other technologies to grow what it hopes will be a range of produce types, starting with its own novel varieties of strawberries. 

As Dean lays out in his post, SinGrow has developed a vertical farming solution that addresses every stage of a plant’s agricultural journey, from breeding to harvesting. (Most vertical farm solutions do not address plant breeding.) It breeds strawberry varieties adapted to humid weather, and has bred two strawberry cultivars, including a proprietary white one, specifically for Singapore's tropical climate. Both of those things mean SinGrow’s system uses less energy because it needs less air conditioning pumped in to cool the facility and reach the ideal growing temperature for the strawberries.

The company also grows the plants on a strawberry-specific rack it has developed, where the plants grow outward instead of upward. That in turn allows a harvesting robot to drive alongside the rack and simply snip the strawberries off rather than pick them. 
Why strawberries? Well, first, they’ve been a hobby of SinGrow cofounder Bao Shengjie, who has been cross-breeding strawberry seeds since 2016. That particular fruit was of interest to the founders because it’s difficult to actually get in Singapore, at least at an affordable price point. SinGrow lists expense, poor taste, and an unstable supply chain as reasons strawberries are difficult for the average consumer to buy in that region.

The company has this neat explainer video that delves more into the specifics on how it grows its strawberries. 

Read more at The Spoon (Jennifer Marston)


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