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After seed capital, Germany's Infarm hires Goldman to root out blank check -sources

FRANKFURT, April 16 (Reuters) - German vertical farming start-up Infarm has hired Goldman Sachs to help with talks on the possibility of going public through a merger with a so-called blank check company as it seeks funds for expansion, people close to the matter said.

Berlin-based Infarm, which currently focuses on indoor production of herbs and salad greens, uses cloud-computing to manage the cultivation of produce that is grown close to consumers, minimising its environmental impact.

The company has hired Goldman to help engage in talks with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) about a potential merger that could give it so-called unicorn status, meaning a valuation of more than $1 billion, the people said.

The people, who requested anonymity as the talks are private, said that Infarm may not agree to a merger with a SPAC.

Infarm said it does comment on market rumour or speculation. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

SPACs raise funds in an initial public offering (IPO) with the aim of buying a private firm, which then automatically gets a stock market listing.

Infarm last month raised $100 million, bringing total funding so far to $400 million. Its backers include LGT Lightstone, Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel, Latitude, Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital and Good Harvest.

It has struck supply deals with major food retailers including Germany’s Aldi, Marks and Spencer in Britain and Kroger in the United States.

Infarm said last year that it plans to expand its area under cultivation to 5 million square feet (465,000 square metres) by 2025, up from the 500,000 square feet it now runs in 10 countries, and add mushrooms, tomatoes and strawberries to the salad and herbs it now sells.

Its automated, modular 25 square meter growing centres can generate a harvest that would usually need up to 10,000 square meters of soil-based farmland, using 95% less water, 90% less transport and zero chemical pesticide, Infarm says. ($1 = 0.8347 euros) (Additional reporting by Nadine Schimroszik; Editing by Alexander Smith)