26 Seasons, a company specialising in off-season premium strawberry production through its Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) indoor farm, is seeking to raise $1.5 million in new capital (with the ability to take up to a further $3m in oversubscriptions) through online investment platform, Snowball Effect.
This will complete its Series A funding round, adding to the $3.55 million (made up of $1.55m equity and $2m debt from the regional economic development and investment unit, Kānoa) the local agritech company has already secured as part of this round.
The funds raised will be used to scale up its indoor CE strawberry farm in Foxton by significantly increasing the capacity of production of sustainably grown, premium strawberries annually. Funds will also be used to roll out the company’s licensed ‘all-in one’ modular vertical farming system, invest in a research and development facility to trial other strawberry varieties and conduct an international pilot in Malaysia to confirm commercialisation opportunities in high-value South East Asian markets.
The capital raise coincides with the commercial launch, in winter, of 26 Seasons Strawberries in key supermarkets. This follows a successful commercial pilot by the company that acted as a proving ground for strawberry growing data, consumer acceptance, premium pricing and retailer support.
CEO of 26 Seasons, Grant Leach, said the company has a clear growth strategy to sustainably grow and supply premium strawberries at good margins to high-growth markets.
“Demand from consumers, retailers and food service in New Zealand and overseas far exceeds the stable year-round supply of consistent tasting, locally grown strawberries due to the short season for traditional outdoor growing and supply chain vulnerability. In most markets, peak ‘out of season’ demand is met by flying in product from distant markets with negative impacts on food miles, transport costs, shelf life, spoilage, retail price and quality of berries,” said Leach.
Woolworths, Foodstuffs and Farro are now confirmed as keen stockists for 26 Seasons Strawberries, and its locally-grown strawberries will be hitting select supermarket shelves around the North Island for the first time this July, following some of the most turbulent weather on record.
“New Zealand is no longer immune to supply chain vulnerability, and unfortunately, extreme weather events over recent years, including cyclones, flooding, and drought, have led to significant yield reductions across various crops, including strawberries. These losses have not only affected the financial viability of growers but have also led to food shortages and price fluctuations in the market.”
Leach continued that New Zealanders can now enjoy locally-grown, super-sweet strawberries in the off-season. At the same time, retailers will benefit from the consistency of supply and fruit quality afforded by our controlled indoor environment.
26 Seasons also focuses on overseas markets as foreign governments, such as Singapore and UAE, both large consumers of imported strawberries, announced policies to improve food security and increase resilience to supply chain disruptions from pandemics, geo-political events and climate change by investing in local food production.
This will be via developing its own CE strawberry farms in these markets and by licensing its “All in One” modularised vertical farming system.
“This will enable fast, manageable in-market commercial expansion wherever there is demand, without the need for capital-intensive, large footprint ‘mega’ indoor farms far from the markets they serve.”
“The systemised approach means that 26 Seasons can deliver the first harvest of premium strawberries within 150 days of the ‘All in One’ growing system landing in the target city. This sustainable system is free of chemical sprays, has deficient water demand and is space efficient.”
26 Seasons was founded in 2017 by two experienced ag-sector individuals, Steven Carden and Matthew Keltie, to make the off-season in season all year through new, more sustainable farming methods. It initially grew and supplied microgreens before focusing on the high-value, high-demand strawberries. Today 26 Seasons is one of just a handful of companies globally that has commercially mastered indoor farming of this tricky-to-grow fruit.
“Investing in 26 Seasons offers a unique opportunity for people to participate in shaping the future of sustainable food production.”
Leach concluded that as climate change continues to pose unprecedented challenges, and consumers increasingly demand sustainably grown delicious and fresh local produce, the need for innovative solutions like CEA is rapidly growing.