Over the past decade and a half, Spread has become the most recognizable name in Japan’s vertical framing ecosystem. The Kyoto-based firm opened its first farm in 2007 and six years later claimed to be the first company in the space to achieve profitability. That’s no mean feat, given the considerable overhead that goes into launching a fully automated indoor farm and the extremely low ROI per head of lettuce.
Spread has also been pushing to bring down the cost of its produce over the past decade. Vertical farming may be a novelty with its own built-in advantages (less water and land use, no pesticides, etc.), but being truly competitive on the grocery store shelves means — at very least — matching the price of existing produce.
While the company is fairly mature in terms of timeline and indoor farm automation, further accelerating its technology and properly marketing its store brand Vegetus still requires some substantial funding at this stage. This week, Spread announced that it has raise a 4 billion yen (~$30.5 million) Series A aimed and leveling the offerings up.
The company notes,
Since its establishment, Spread has always strived to create a sustainable society where future generations can attain peace of mind. Currently Spread works toward its 2030 goal of 100 tons of lettuce daily production domestically. To answer the world’s growing needs of food supply, Spread is widening its product range by working on fruits and alternative meat, and is looking to expand globally in the future.
Currently Spread specializes in lettuce, but it’s working on joining a handful of fellow indoor farming companies with the release of vertically grown strawberries. It also has alternative meats on the roadmap, though there’s no indication how far off those might be.
As a sector, vertical farming has grown rapidly in Japan. The 2011 tsunami that led to the Fukushima power plant disaster has been viewed by many as a major driver in interest around alternative methods of growing. The country's aging population has impacted its agricultural industry as well, putting the average age of a Japanese farm at around 67 years old.