Soil-free farming group Vertical Future valued at 100 mln stg after fundraising

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LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Vertical Future, which grows crops without soil and with artificial light, said on Tuesday it had secured 21 million pounds ($29 million) in what it said was Europe's largest ever "Series A" fundraising in the emerging vertical farming sector.

The company said the funding round gave it a valuation of 100 million pounds ($136 million).

Vertical farming produces crops on a series of stacked levels and has been promoted as a sustainable way of growing fruit and vegetables closer to the point of consumption without pesticides and using less water.

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Vertical Future develops and deploys vertical farming hardware and technology. It has a range of projects in Britainand overseas, including in Ireland, Italy and Singapore.

"Our indoor vertical farms offer a cost-effective way to dramatically increase output and productivity per cubic metre, enhance nutrient profiles, and improve flavour; all through an approach that is completely free from pesticides, said Jamie Burrows, who founded the company in 2016 with his wife, Marie-Alexandrine.

"Over the next few years, we will be doing this at an industrial scale.”

Investors in the fundraising included Pula Investments Ltd, environmentalist Gregory Nasmyth, Nickleby Capital, Dyfan Investment and existing shareholder SFC Capital.

Vertical Future is in talks with several major British retail and logistics brands to further accelerate growth.

"Unlike others in the vertical farming sector whose technologies and ambitions are restricted to growing only premium-priced salad and microgreens for a premium domestic and restaurant market, we are aiming to feed everyday working families with fairly-priced, higher-quality produce," Burrows said.

He said the UK market alone was potentially worth 6-8 billion pounds, including growing crops for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and phytopharmaceuticals.

In 2019, British online supermarket Ocado (OCDO.L), invested 17 million pounds into vertical farming, forming a joint venture with U.S. based 80 Acres Farms and Dutch company Priva Holding. Ocado also acquired a 58% stake in vertical farm operator Jones Food Company.

Last year, Tesco (TSCO.L), Britain's biggest supermarket group, was supplied with strawberries vertically-grown by Direct Produce Supplies Ltd.

($1 = 0.7352 pounds)

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Reporting by James Davey. Editing by Jane Merriman

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