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Italian vertical farm startups has its eyes on retail and horeca

Thanks to "in-house-developed" and patented technologies, LocalGreen has created a solution that reduces the costs of 'vertical' production plants by 40%.

"Vertical farming makes it possible to recreate the perfect plant growth parameters so that all inputs are optimal within an environment that promotes plant growth. This ensures much healthier and more productive plants", explains Forattini from LocalGreen. On top of that, the LocalGreen production facility "is completely different from a 'classic' vertical farm in that we do not use horizontal shelving but long and high vertical green walls for cultivation, with a patented irrigation system based exclusively on aeroponics."

This solution allows you to save 95% of water compared to traditional agriculture thanks to recycling and remineralization while also avoiding at the same time that the plants are contaminated by heavy metals and 'external' pathogens.

Thanks to their independently developed technologies, the startup can complete 25 harvests a year compared to the usual 3 of traditional ag.

The story of LocalGreen
"I graduated in Economics at the Cattolica University and Lorenzo in Engineering at the Polytechnic. As we considered technology in agriculture, we saw how vertical farming was being developed in the USA," explains Paolo Forattini.

Initially incubated by Impact Hub Milano, LocalGreen immediately came into contact with the retail chain Coop and then moved near Milan together with an investor who made laboratories and growth chambers available to the startup.

"From there – explains Forattini – we have developed a commercial network mainly with large-scale retail players. Our entry into the market was gradual, combining research and testing thanks to the collaboration with Coop and Coop Lombardia".

The development also passed from raising capital: almost three million euros between investment rounds, bank debt, and equity instruments. Those resources were used to build a larger production plant in Cervesina (Pavia) in 2022, which at the same time became the headquarters of the startup.

LocalGreen between present and future
Since the foundation, LocalGreen has grown steadily and now employs 15 people compared to the initial 4. The company, in their 1,500 m2 of vertical cultivation in the Cervesina plant, produces 80,000 bags of nickel-free salad per week in 4 varieties (lettuce and green leaf salad mix).

Having started large-scale production, LocalGreen salads have attracted various players in large-scale retail trade, from Coop (Liguria, Piedmont, and Lombardy) to Unes via 'Iper la grande I,' Gulliver and most recently CRAI.

Looking to the future, one of the objectives "is to work well in limited areas, focusing on Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, and Veneto to scale up the Italian market." clarifies Forattini. "Our prices are higher than those of the fruit and vegetable sector and close to those of organic products. But in the future, we aim to market packaged salads and other products at the same price as traditional competitors".

"A great advantage of LocalGreen," continues Forattini, "is logistics: lettuce has large volumes with a relatively low product value per volume. We are very competitive in this area, also because the impact of logistics in the sector is significant, to delicately put it."

Furthermore, the startup is "looking with interest at rocket, valerian and, in general, at all packaged vegetables, while red fruits and tomatoes are medium-term projects." At the same time, the cp,[amu7 aims to expand into the HoReCa channel (Hotels, Restaurants, and Catering), with a series of trials to better understand how to enter this market segment.

Crucial for the growth of LocalGreen was its participation in 2022 in Up2Stars. This program was born from the collaboration between the bank Intesa Sanpaolo and the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center with the support of the Gellify innovation platform - in the Bioeconomy and agritech segment.

The reference branch of the startup - already a customer of the Group - suggested to the founders to apply to participate in the process, which, recalls the CFO of LocalGreen, "has been highly personalized and tailored to our needs. This gives us the opportunity to grow as a company by working on the more 'fragile' aspects for which we needed additional support in an undoubtedly positive experience."

The Experience concluded with the entry of LocalGreen into Intesa Sanpaolo's ELITE Lounge in collaboration with ELITE. This Euronext ecosystem helps small and medium-sized enterprises to grow and access the private and public capital markets, with the ultimate goal of identifying the most promising Italian entrepreneurial activities.

A path that "has brought benefits both in terms of training and reputation, as it gives visibility and credibility to the company in the eyes of the market with the support that goes beyond the purely economic aspects and the duration of the programs - explains Forattini -. For example, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center has created opportunities to start new collaborations, such as on the occasion of an event in Turin that allowed us to get in touch with PAM".

Opportunities that are not destined to run out, with LocalGreen in full "climbing" and the Intesa Sanpaolo Group to support it given the high innovative potential of sustainable technology developed entirely "in-house" by the young Lombard company in a sector that must necessarily innovate to change and become the "engine" of the ecological transition.


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