“In Korea, there aren’t many people who have joined the industry yet,” says Leo Kim, CEO of N.Thing. However, there’s a lot going on in terms of a green movement. ESG’s (Environment Social Governance) are now a trend for many companies. So more and more are getting interested in agtech, which is definitely inspirational.
Korean market is ready
N.Thing, a South Korean vertical farming solution provider has noticed a growing interest for vertical farming in the country. “We've seen that through the many applicants we’ve had over the past year. Not only because of the technology but also as they find this startup setup very pleasing. They see us as an upcoming silicon valley company, like the new Google apparently,” says Leo laughing.
Leo believes that the Korean market is ready for vertical farming products, because of customers’ positive experience towards the fresh produce coming from these farms. Also, materials are getting cheaper, thus, industry boundaries are much lower now. There's wider support in terms of finance and politics, as policies are changing towards vertical farming. Vertical farming has shown to be promising so more investments are getting into the market.
“The reason behind our major fundraising round is due to this matter. The round has been funded by Korean investors and companies. More and more, we’re seeing overseas investors showing lots of interest in the company because the market is growing here,” Leo states.
Funding for global expansion
N.Thing is hoping to close fundraising this month to start expanding their products and services into the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Then, the series C will be kicked off in the next year so they can rapidly expand domestically and internationally. “We want to create farms in every city around the globe to reduce the carbon footprint and logistics. Eventually, my biggest ambition would be creating a farm on Mars,” Leo affirms.
Looking into clean energy
As the field mapping is changing here, we have to switch to other methods. Open field growing used to be very easy here, but now we can target the complete market by promoting this way of farming. We have to provide a solution in a short time, quickly to reduce the food miles, energy use and minimize the resource use. We are solving this problem by providing sustainable growing solutions that use the minimum of resources."
The N.Thing container (Cube) farm
The container farms use energy as of now to supply the processes. However, the company is looking into clean energy such as solar. However, as a startup it’s hard to cover that by ourselves, explains Leo. Therefore, they’re now looking into R&D with research centers and other parties to solve the energy issues by finding renewable substitutes.
How Leo got into farming
Before setting up N.Thing, Leo had been with a local greenhouse company that has constructed several tomato farms in Uzbekistan. He realized that agriculture had so many opportunities ahead, but as of then, it was such a harsh working environment for employees. Then he realized his idea of increasing production through vertical farming, using multiple layers.
After exploring the options, Leo wanted to connect agriculture with technology. Later on, he launched an app to collect growing data with IOT connected farms using smart pots to do so. “I wanted to be able to control the inside of the farm as well. Then we started focusing on the cultivation environment, also in different locations. Shortly after that we looked into container farms, as that seemed the perfect option in regards to the level of control.” Once the proof of concept stage was finalized, N.Thing wanted to scale up their modular container solutions for companies to scale up horizontally and vertically.