CIT GAP Funds Invests in Babylon Micro-Farms
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) GAP Funds has invested in Charlottesville, Va.-based Babylon Micro-Farms, provider of an on-demand indoor farming service. Founded in 2017, Babylon Micro-Farms makes sustainable indoor farming more accessible by enabling small growers and businesses to take control of their fresh organic produce supply with a variety of scalable indoor farming modules. Babylon plans to use this investment from CIT GAP Funds to scale up their operations with new hires in product, sales, and marketing.
Concerns around GMOs (genetically modified organism), pesticides and food transportation are shifting food consumption habits, leading to an increased demand for high-quality, fresh organic produce. In 2018, sales of organic fresh produce increased 8.6% to total $5.6 billion, according to data from the Organic Produce Network (OPN). However, despite a rise in sales, many communities across the U.S. lack access to affordable, fresh organic food due to long and expensive distribution from where the produce is originally grown. Babylon’s micro-farms grow fresh produce two times faster and use 90% less water than traditional agriculture, without the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals.
“The idea for Babylon Micro-Farms was born in a social entrepreneurship class at UVA, when a professor asked my co-founder Graham and I to develop a high impact, low cost product that could help refugees. I quickly discovered and became interested in hydroponics, a way to grow plants without soil, use less water, and grow crops faster,” said Alexander Olesen, Co-Founder and CEO at Babylon Micro-Farms. “Our mission is to develop technology that will inspire a new generation of urban farmers to grow their own fresh, affordable, sustainable produce at the push of a button. We are grateful for the support of CIT GAP funds at this stage of our development.”
Babylon’s farm model drastically reduces the upfront costs and expertise associated with indoor agriculture. Supplies are delivered ready to grow, Babylon provides 24/7 farming support, and the entire process is environmentally friendly. The smart modular indoor farms are powered by a patented IoT platform that remotely controls the farm’s ecosystem, which can be tailored to meet customer needs. Babylon’s easy to use application guides farmers through every step, starting with when to plant, and includes live data and farm health alerts, and watering and harvesting schedules. The on-demand farming service allows for a consistent supply of fresh produce year round.
“The mission to offer more accessible, affordable produce to a wider range of communities across the U.S. is one that CIT is excited to stand behind. Responses from existing Babylon Micro-Farms users, including a UVA dining hall, The Boar’s Head’s Resort, Corner Juice and others have been very positive and showcase the wide use cases for this solution,” said Thomas Weithman, Managing Director of CIT GAP Funds, and President and Chief Investment Officer of MACH37. “Being able to grow any kind of produce year round within our communities, such as for local food service industries, education and assisted living, or community farms to name a few, is a game changer for the state of sustainable urban agriculture. CIT is very confident in Babylon’s future success, and we look forward to being part of their journey.”