German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG said vertical farming is an efficient way of boosting food supply in cities and urban areas amid the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bayer Crop Science in the Philippines issued the statement after it partnered with Singapore-based Temasek to launch a joint investment company that seeks to introduce innovations in vegetable seed production and to promote vertical farming. Country Commercial Lead for Bayer Crop Science Iiinas Ivan Lao said “vertical farming has the potential to increase food output in very scarce areas for planting within highly urbanized cities.”
Unfold, the joint company of Bayer AG and Temasek, will focus on developing new seed varieties coupled with agronomic advice tailored for the unique indoor environment of vertical farms, according to the multinational’s statement.
Unfold has raised $30 million in initial funding and has entered into an agreement for certain germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio.
“Innovation that offers sustainable solutions for agriculture is one of the 10 areas of engagement and investment that Leaps by Bayer is focused on,” said Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, which was built to drive fundamental breakthroughs in the fields of health and agriculture through new technologies.
“The investment in Unfold is a great example of a transformative, creative approach to developing agricultural products that meets the needs of consumers, farmers and the planet by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, supporting sustainably grown, hyperlocal production and addressing food security challenges faced by growing urban populations,” he added.
Recently, Bayer Crop Science in the Philippines introduced urban farming in Barangay Ususan, Taguig City. The company said it built a 300-square-meter ‘horizontal’ urban farm in the barangay that allows residents to produce eggplants, tomatoes, pechay, sili and various herbs.
“We’re fortunate that the community in Barangay Ususan continues to enjoy making their own food with the urban farm set up right inside their residential area,” Lao said. “Filipino consumers have a preference for fresh vegetables and this initiative caters to them. Obviously, vertical farming has the potential to increase food output in very scarce areas for planting within highly urbanized cities.”
Bayer said vertical farms could help crops grow more quickly and efficiently in limited spaces, such as cities, as it takes advantage of indoor growing facilities that leverage artificial light. It noted that vertical farms help crops grow more quickly, enabling the reliable growth of fresh, local produce anywhere, anytime utilizing less space and fewer natural resources while reducing the need for food logistics and transportation.
“Unfold will support the hyperlocal production of consumer-pleasing vegetables while also addressing the increasing need for a reliable and safe supply of sustainably grown produce, especially in food deserts and in times of crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.
Industry experts have identified vertical farming as one efficient urban agriculture practice in Metro Manila and areas where there are limited planting spaces (See “Covid-19 propels city-farming opportunities to centerstage,” in theBusinessMirror, June 11, 2020). Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas