Growing entity: Fieldless Farms raises $17.5 million to sow the seeds of its pan-Canadian expansion

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Backed by millions of dollars in fresh funding, Fieldless Farms sees fertile ground for expansion as it strives to get its hydroponically grown produce to grocery stores across the country.

Launched three years ago, the Ottawa-based startup already sells leafy greens in more than 40 Farm Boy stores across Ontario as well as Massine’s Your Independent Grocer and McKeen Metro Glebe in the capital.

But founder and CEO Jon Lomow says Fieldless is poised to cultivate a bountiful harvest of new market opportunities after closing a $17.5 million Series A funding round led by Forage Capital Partners, a VC based in Calgary, which invests primarily in agri-tech companies. Farm Credit Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada also contributed debt financing to the round, which was announced Thursday.

Lomow says the capital will allow the company to increase its production capacity tenfold while adding new products to its range.

“Canada has a huge problem,” the Carleton University business graduate said in an interview with OBJ Thursday morning.

“We import $60 billion worth of food a year, and that’s a bit of a risk. We’re starting to realize how fragile supply chains are and how these types of supply chain disruptions can create inflationary pressures on food.”

“We import $60 billion worth of food a year, and it’s a bit risky. We are beginning to realize the fragility of supply chains and how these types of supply chain disruptions can create inflationary pressures on food.

“We need to start getting better at producing our own food. Technology is getting to the point where we can really make a dent in these imports. I think there’s a huge economic opportunity in that $60 billion number, and we’re focused on increasing that number.

Forage Capital managing director Jim Taylor is betting that Fieldless has the wherewithal to deliver on that promise.

“We really like Fieldless’ approach and what the company has built in a low-profile and cost-effective way here in Canada,” Taylor said in a statement. “We believe the company is well positioned in the current economic climate for steady and meaningful growth.”

Fieldless produces two types of lettuce mixes – Northern Crunch and Ontario Sweets – at its indoor farming facility in Cornwall. Lomow didn’t reveal exactly how many products Fieldless currently grows, but in 2020 he told OBJ the company delivers nearly 2,000 packs of lettuce per week.

That number has almost certainly increased since then. The lettuce, which is grown without herbicides or pesticides in a 20,000 square foot air-conditioned indoor farm using renewable energy, has become so popular “we’re having a hard time keeping it on the shelves,” Lomow said.

Extension to 60,000 square feet

Fieldless is expanding its Cornwall factory to 60,000 square feet as it seeks new customers and diversifies into new crops. Today with 30 employees, the firm plans to more than double its workforce over the next few years.

Lomow said the company is looking to increase the yield of its current lettuce mixes and add other leafy greens such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce and more to its product list. From there, Fieldless hopes to start growing other vegetables such as cucumbers and peppers as well as other foods.

The company’s other big priority is to bring its greens to more stores. Lomow said Fieldless will likely target major supermarket chains such as Loblaw and Sobeys – which is owned by Farm Boy’s parent company, grocery giant Empire – in a bid to expand its footprint from coast to coast. ‘other.

The company, which raised $3 million in seed capital to start in 2019, now believes it has the ideal financial partners to help it achieve its lofty mission.

Lomow said he was “super excited” to have Forage on board, calling the Western Canada fund “probably the most savvy and well-known agribusiness VC in Canada.” Meanwhile, FCC and BDC are providing a powerful boost on the debt financing side.

“We see it as a long-term strategic partnership with FCC and BDC,” Lomow said. “It’s going to allow us to grow a lot more…using debt.”

Fieldless – which partners with a number of Canadian and foreign companies that supply its cutting-edge hydroponic technology that grows crops without soil – is already sowing the seeds for another round of funding that could materialize in the next 12 coming months, he added.

While many in the Canadian business community see storm clouds on the horizon as the threat of a recession seemingly grows stronger by the day, Lomow seems unfazed. Canada’s food sustainability challenges won’t just go away, he notes, making the agri-tech sector an attractive proposition for investors looking for a safe haven.

“I think the way we’ve organized our business makes it extremely attractive to investors looking to deploy funds in a market like this,” Lomow said.

“The air is kind of out of the tech bubble, and when you’re in a market like this that’s very concerned about supply chains and food sustainability and food reliability and all those things, we have this emerging sector of agro-food and biotechnology events. I think it’s kind of the perfect place for investors right now.

Like nearly every expansion-stage company right now, Fieldless faces growing supply chain disruptions and persistent labor shortages that are hampering its efforts, Lomow conceded.

How effectively the company can overcome these hurdles will go a long way in determining its ability to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation opportunity, he said.

“We fight against all these things like everyone else does. We are working as hard as possible to make this happen as soon as possible. We have to execute, and we have to do it well and fast.

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