The family behind one of Australia's largest family-owned food service distributors, PFD Food Services, has taken a major investment stake in automated indoor vertical farming technology company Stacked Farm, taking Stacked Farm's total capital raised to $98 million.
Tayside Investments Australia has become one of the largest investors in Gold Coast-headquartered Stacked Farm alongside US-based Magnetar Capital, with Tayside Director and PFD Food Services' departing CEO Kerry Smith joining the board.
Ms. Smith has joined the Stacked Farm board alongside another new appointee, Bob East, Chairman of KKR-backed Australian Venue Co and newly appointed chairman of AFL team Gold Coast Suns.
Ms. Smith and Mr. East will help drive the commercial expansion and rollout of Stacked Farm's proprietary technology, both in Australia and abroad over the coming years, including the start of production at the company's 4,000sqm facility on the Gold Coast mid-year and construction beginning on a new 7,200sqm facility in Melbourne later this year.
Stacked Farm's capital raise, launched in 2021 with a $10 million goal to fund its first commercial-scale vertical farms, has far exceeded expectations, raising $40 million from alternative asset manager Magnetar Capital alone.
"To raise almost $100 million when we set out with a $10 million target – it's been the strongest possible statement of confidence in Stacked Farm's future," CEO Conrad Smith said.
Mr. Smith says Tayside, which built PFD into a multi-billion-dollar business headed by Ms. Smith (no relation), offers a deep understanding of the challenges in the food supply chain and the importance of technology to its future.
"I've known the family for a long time and have so much respect for what they have achieved with PFD," he said.
The appointment of Bob East, a highly respected business executive, to the board is another enormous coup for Stacked Farm, Mr. Smith said. Mr. East, with a group of private investors, created
the Mantra Group, developing the company over 12 years into Australia's largest hotel and resort business which was ultimately acquired for $1.3 billion by AccorHotels in 2018.
Mr. East is the former chairman of both Tourism Australia and Tourism Events Queensland, as well as recently co-chair of the ASEAN Summit for Business and Tourism and sat on the Federal Government's Brand Australia board.
He is also chairman of both ASX-listed Experience Co Limited and Cettire Limited, as well as chairman of Australia Venue Co, which operates more than 210 hotels and venues throughout Australia and New Zealand.
"I am delighted to join the Stacked Farm board. Having observed the remarkable development of the business over the past five years, I am eager to work with the highly skilled team responsible for this cutting-edge, world-leading technology." Bob East said.
Tayside's Kerry Smith says Stacked Farm's industry-leading technology and unique end-to-end automation processes are set to revolutionize the fresh greens market.
"Vertical farm technology is producing greens that are inherently safe and high quality through environmental and sustainable production methods," she said.
"Customers will enjoy the benefits of unparalleled reliability and availability while knowing they are doing the right thing for the planet. We are excited to be part of the journey."
At its Gold Coast facility, the produce is handled end-to-end without touching a human hand in a safe, temperature-controlled environment.
Mr. Smith says: "We've made great strides within our research and development chambers, now operating and delivering excellent results.
"These learnings will be fed into the development of new commercial farms for production tailored to growing the best healthy food."
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