Global ag is ‘dishearteningly under-optimised’: Hexafarms gets €1.3m to digitise indoor farming

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image:Getty/AzmanL
Image:Getty/AzmanL

Related tags vertical farming CEA controlled environment agriculture indoor farming automation

Hexafarms, a start-up which develops software for indoor commercial food production, has announced the successful close of a €1.3 million pre-Seed funding round led by leading European early-stage investors Speedinvest with participation from Mudcake and Techstars.

The company’s SaaS harvests data and leverages AI to monitor, control, and optimise greenhouses and vertical indoor farms in real time. Over the last six months, the Berlin-based company has tracked over 40 hectares of commercial greenhouses with its software. It claims its AI models are able to forecast crop yield four to eight weeks in advance with accuracy as high as 95%.

With this fresh capital, Hexafarms says it will further develop its AI and machine learning capabilities as well as expand its team of research and development experts.

The indoor farming segment has seen funding decline by a factor of five from its peak in 2021, according to PitchBook's Q1 agtech report​​. The indoor farming space has faced significant challenges over the past two years because of high capital-expenditure requirements and a challenging fundraising environment, the report said. Some of the largest companies have recently filed for bankruptcy, including AeroFarms, AppHarvest, and Infarm.

Hexafarms, however, stresses that the global food production ecosystem is currently facing a significant challenge, with 14% of food produced lost between harvest and retail​, and around 10-30% between seed to harvesting, exacerbating food insecurity and global hunger. To address this issue, a streamlined approach to food production in indoor spaces, including greenhouses, is therefore essential it believes, considering that around 55% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in cities in the West are cultivated indoors.

Hexafarms says it is therefore capitalising on the opportunities presented by the controlled environment agriculture market, a market that still poised to reach a value of $100 billion by 2030 according to some estimates​, by optimising crop production through AI models that reduce preventable losses.

Algorithms can ‘surpass’ the capabilities of human intervention

Hexafarms founder and CEO David Ahmed said: "Although the global agriculture industry plays a fundamental role on a vast scale, it's dishearteningly under-optimised. Our mission is to revolutionise this landscape. With our constantly evolving AI models, we aim to unlock potential savings of nearly 30% in variable costs and losses. By harnessing the power of algorithms, we can cater to the individual needs of each plant at any scale, surpassing the capabilities of human intervention."

Hexafarms, he added, aims to address the inefficiencies in a food production process that relies on manual labour, a solution that is neither scalable nor sustainable.

Serving large-scale facilities, Hexafarms leverages diverse data from cameras and sensors to yield meaningful insights, enabling a 30% increase in seasonal harvest for high-end crops. The Hexafarms app serves as the window into production by providing growers with accurate, tailored information regarding harvest time as well as highlighting issues that can be addressed to optimise plant biology in the production process. Amid rising concerns over global food supply depletion, the company’s scalable solution combines plant biology expertise with AI models, offering “a competitive edge over human expertise alone in the realm of commercial food production”.

This fresh round of funding, which brings the total capital raised by Hexafarm to over €2.5 million, will enable it to continue to invest in its AI and machine learning capabilities, increasing the accuracy of predictions, as well as growing the company’s portfolio of crops. Hexafarms claims it currently has the widest portfolio across Europe based on public information of supported crops and cultivars and is currently processing an estimated 9 million kilos of strawberries and tomatoes for this quarter.   

Andreas Schwarzenbrunner, partner with Speedinvest’s investment team, said: "The agricultural sector is in urgent need of innovative solutions to address the pressure from climate change on commercial food production process and food insecurity. We have strong confidence in Hexafarms and cannot wait to see them further develop their AI and machine learning capabilities and expand their team of experts. We are convinced that their app will transform commercial food production through optimisation and digitalisation."

Anna Ottosson, founding partner at Mudcake, added: “Over 9 billion people will need healthy and nutritious food over the next decades. We can only achieve this by increasing the efficiency of our production systems. Using their unique AI-optimised software for commercial greenhouses, Hexafarms will help ensure food security for current and future generations. We are proud to back them in that important mission.” 

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