Urban farming startup raises $1.5m to curb Singapore’s reliance on imported food

Terence Lee Tech in Asia 25 Sep 17;

Packet Greens, a Singapore-based startup which couples hydroponics technology with automation to make urban farming more efficient, has raised US$1.5 million in funding from government-related venture capital firm SPRING SEEDS Capital and cleantech-focused fund Trirec.

The company employs vertical farming – racks of crops stacked on top of one another – to improve land-use efficiency. It delivers precise dosages of nutrients and water to crops to minimize wastage. The plants are bathed in LED lights in a tightly controlled environment, eliminating the use of pesticides.

It currently grows 51 types of crops in a 167 square-meter farm – slightly larger than the roomiest three-bedroom apartments in Singapore. It claims to be able to grow five times the crops on the same amount of land compared to traditional farms, and in half the time.

It is aiming to further lower its costs. “Down the road, Packet Greens’ ambitions is to ultimately be able to sell its produce at a price that can be competitive to the wholesale price,” says Trirec co-founder Melvyn Yeo. “Packet Green’s pricing strategy is currently pegged at retail-minus.”

That means it charges wholesalers a certain percentage less than retail price.

“While our operations are not sized at scale for the cost to compete against the traditional imported produce – since Packet Green is still a start-up – our experience has shown us that we are able to achieve a viable costing down strategy.”

Packet Greens tells Tech in Asia that its revenue is forecasted to exceed US$74,000 this year, triple of 2016.

The startup sells its crops directly to consumers online. It also supplies them to restaurants, hotels, and online retailers. It plans to expand locally for three to five years before looking abroad.

Trirec is an investor in Sunseap, a major clean energy solutions provider in Singapore that is valued at US$221 million.

Singapore imports 90 percent of its food, according to a 2015/2016 annual report by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore. It aims to reduce the country’s reliance on imports and has designed a number of schemes to achieve it.