While the vertical farming industry in the US continues to struggle, longtime Japanese precision agriculture pioneer Spread continues to pump out heads of lettuce in its fifteen years in operation, hitting the 100 million pack milestone this year. The company, which raised $30 million in funding last year, sells its produce in approximately 5,000 retail stores, as well as food service and ready-made meal operators across Japan, according to a release sent to The Spoon.
The company’s founder, Shinji Inada, started the company in 2007 after a career in fresh produce distribution, citing a concern about a decrease in agriculture production due to climate change. While vertical farming has been around in Japan since the 1980s, Inada noticed that neither the quality nor price of “plant factory” produce was on par with traditionally farmed agriculture, so he developed a vertical farm system to produce his lettuce brand called Vegetus.
Since then, his company has continued developing its vertical farming technology and launched its Techno Farm concept in 2018, which uses automated cultivation, precise environmental control technology, and an IoT-based cultivation management system called ‘Techno Farm Cloud.’ The company’s TechoFarm system is used in three locations today: Techno Farm Fukuroi, Techno Farm Narita, and Techno Farm Keihanna.
Since its fundraise last year, the company has been exploring expansion into strawberries and the production of plant-based meat. The company has also been expanding its selection of lettuce varieties, launching a ” Chigiri ” product in 2021, which has its leaves removed during production, and launching a new European lettuce variety, “Stick,” this spring.