“We’re building relationships and distribution channels that will allow us to grow into other regions. Latin America, from Mexico to Chile, we all speak the same language and share the same culture,” says Cristián Sjögren, co-founder and CEO of AgroUrbana.
AgroUrbana was the first vertical farm established in Latin America, with its 3,000-square-foot pilot facility located in Santiago, Chile. Construction finished on the first facility in 2019 and the company is currently raising Series A funding to replicate the pilot farm on a larger scale – a 30,000-square foot scale, to be precise. This new facility will allow AgroUrbana to increase its output by twentyfold and further prove the feasibility of large-scale indoor farming in Latin America.
As CCO Pablo Bunster explains, “we are confident that we have a business and production model that works in a competitive market. If we can do it here, our bet is that we can do it anywhere. Our model can bring solutions to the pain points in Latin America.”
AgroUrbana currently produces lettuce, as a house mix. The mix was the result of testing dozens of lettuce varieties. The company will soon be launching kale and basil and has also experimented with strawberry production. Developing its product line is another motivator for AgroUrbana to expand to a larger facility – with more room to grow, the company will have the space to trial new varieties.
“Our strategy is to get it right, not overpromise and underdeliver. We’ve got a house lettuce mix that everyone loves, which allows us to move around a little. Leafy greens are the short-term future for us, but soft fruit also has a huge market,” says Pablo.
Partnerships with Jumbo, Walmart
According to Cristián and Pablo, forming strong partnerships with major retailers to create a space for a new category of food, one that is tasty, healthy, local and sustainable has been an important factor in the farm’s success and planned expansion. Since August 2020, AgroUrbana has been selling its products through Cencosud, the largest retail in Latin America with 200 stores throughout Chile. In late June 2021, AgroUrbana also began selling its products through Walmart.
A fridge at Walmart with AgroUrbana products
“We’re now working with the top distribution channels in the country as well as other players in the foodservice sector. Restaurants and hotels are also interesting market segments, and we already have a relationship with global catering operations,” says Cristián.
Agrourbana also does direct sales, or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales through its subscription box. Every Wednesday, Subscribers receive Agrourbana products at a competitive price. As Pablo explains, there is currently a waiting list for the Agrourbana subscription and building a larger facility will help the company meet this increasing demand for local products.