British taxpayers have become part-owners of a London-based vertical farming business, adding to the eclectic array of companies in which the public has a financial interest through the government’s pandemic-inspired investment vehicle.
Sky News understands that a £500,000 Future Fund loan to Harvest London, which opened an indoor farm in Walthamstow in 2018, has been converted into shares in the company.
The deal means the Future Fund, which was set up by Rishi Sunak during his period as chancellor, adds vertical farming to a portfolio which includes a sex party organiser, a League One football club and a cannabis oil producer.
In total, the Future Fund lent well over £1bn to hundreds of companies to bolster their finances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harvest London said on Monday that it had secured funding from Foresight, an investment manager, to develop a 140,000 square foot property in south London into a vertical farm.
The company has grown more than 100 different crops at its two existing sites, and has struck partnerships with brands including Pizza Pilgrims and Compass Group, the FTSE-100 caterer.
It says its agricultural techniques enable the year-round production of high-quality crops without the use of chemical pesticides.
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Chris Davies, founder of Harvest London, said: “While you might not yet have tasted something grown in a vertical farm, in the future this type of produce is going to be on your menu, whether that’s from a supermarket, in prepared food, or eating out.
“Vertical farming is a technology that can complement British agriculture, helping us reduce our reliance on food imports, and give consumers fresher, more local ingredients.”
A spokesman for Harvest London declined to comment on the Future Fund’s equity stake in the company.