Time to grow: YASAI’s crowd-invested funding round gets off to a strong start.
Growing up as a company is normally meant metaphorically, as startups move from young entrants to more mature businesses. But for YASAI, growing up also has a literal meaning. The Swiss agtech startup is redesigning the way food systems work by integrating vertical farming methods into herb production. Now they’ve launched a crowdinvesting campaign to double their production capacity.
YASAI’s Founder and CEO Mark Essam Zahran became interested in vertical farming – the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers in a climate-controlled environment – after stumbling upon a book about the method in his twenties. Leaning on his training as an architect, he decided to join forces with an ecological engineer and a banker to tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time: feeding a growing global population on a planet with shrinking natural resources.
Together, the trio founded YASAI in 2020. Headquartered in Zürich, the company’s mission is to cover the food value chain holistically, from farm to fork, in a hyperlocal and traceable manner. The team has already funded and built their first vertical farm – already in operation as the first automated facility of its kind in Switzerland. Based on 100% renewable energy, their system is both economically and ecologically viable. Now the plan is to replicate this approach by scaling up with further hydroponic, vertical farming facilities.
The story so far
In 2021, the company was generating a €-1.14m loss pre-revenue. However, YASAI’s initial market launch in January this year proved a great success, with their vertically farmed herbs now available in 80 locations at Switzerland’s largest grocery retailer, Coop.
Today, demand from prospective customers already exceeds the farm’s estimated current maximum output capacity by 2.8 times. In order to continue to offer a robust alternative to food imports in the country and expand to farming leafy greens, the company requires additional funding.
YASAI is crowdfunding to raise the money it needs to scale. Conventionally, investing in startups requires significant funds and is therefore limited to venture capitalists and angel investors, with contributions of six figures and above being the norm. Crowdinvesting allows for more conventional earners to invest in companies they care about.
“Investing in a start-up shouldn’t be a privilege for only a handful of people. This is why we chose to invite supporters to crowdinvest. Everyone should be able to invest in vertical farming as a contribution to more resilient food systems” – Yasai Founder & CEO Mark Essam Zahran
Vertical farming has the potential to increase yields by up to 200 times per square metre and uses 95% less freshwater – something that is particularly pertinent as much of Europe is afflicted by drought. YASAI hopes that opening up their latest funding round to a wider demographic will allow those who care about the future of farming to put their money where their mouth is.
And the team seems to be right. Pre-registered users got priority access from August 15 and at the time of publication Yasai had secured €1,225,750 from 183 investors – already exceeding their initial €850,000 target. As of August 23, the campaign is public and open to everyone.
Next steps for the company, besides scaling up their farming facilities, include opening a branch office in Singapore and continuing to develop their presence in the European market.
Find out more about Yasai’s crowdinvestment round on Crowdcube.
YASAI build and manage vertical farms based on a circular economy to transform food systems. Their mission is to contribute to local food production, independent of climate circumstances. They grow more with less fresh water, less fertiliser, and less land. They achieve more yield per square metre with zero pesticides all year round right at your doorstep.
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