Infarm, once Europe’s largest vertical farming company, is now leaving the continent entirely, Sifted understands. Infarm previously had operations in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.
The company’s Berlin HQ is to close, according to emails among staff seen by Sifted, with one former business partner describing it as “a ghost town”. Its flagship UK facility — a 10k sq m farm in Bedford — is listed as “permanently closed” on Google Maps and calls to its French office went unanswered last week. Its operations in Copenhagen have reportedly already ceased.
German supermarket chains Aldi and Kaufland both confirmed that their partnerships with Infarm had ended and that customers could no longer find produce from the vertical farms in their stores. British supermarket Marks and Spencer also confirmed to Sifted it has ended its partnership with Infarm.
When asked whether Infarm was leaving Europe, CEO Erez Galonska said it had “decided to shift its geographical focus from Europe to high-potential regions better suited for indoor farming”. Infarm has previously said it plans to expand to the Middle East.
lnfarm did not clarify where, if any, staff or sites remain on the continent.
Pandemic boom and bust
Infarm, which launched in 2013, grows vegetables like salad leaves and herbs in vertical farms and sells them via supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers. It's raised $473m in total, according to Dealroom, from high-profile investors like Atomico and Balderton.
But, like many vertical farms, high energy prices in recent years have prevented the company from reaching profitability. Industry commentators also say high staffing costs have challenged the business model.
Infarm laid off half of its staff in November 2022, saying the economic environment, disruption of supply chains and soaring power costs contributed to the decision.
What’s next for Infarm
Commentators have long suggested the most fruitful region for vertical farming is the Middle East, where food security is pressing and energy is cheaper.
Infarm’s last funding round, in 2021, included investment from the Qatar Investment Authority. It said at the time that it planned to open a growing centre in the country in 2023.
Infarm is also building a growing facility in Toronto, Canada. When asked Friday where its focus now lies, Infarm told Sifted that it will “continue to grow our business in North America, where we currently farm in our state-of-the-art growing facility in Toronto”.
“We believe the short-term macroeconomic challenges facing indoor farming are overshadowed by the significant long-term environmental benefits it can deliver,” Galonska added.