Kuwaiti investment company commits up to $100 million to Startup Battlefield alum Pure Harvest

Pure Harvest Smart Farms, a startup developing technology-enhanced greenhouses for agricultural developments across the Middle East, has received a commitment of up to $100 million from Wafra, Kuwait’s national investment company.

The first fruits of that commitment are coming through in the form of a commitment from Wafra to lead Pure Harvest’s $20.6 million Series A financing, the company said.

Pure Harvest first hit the international investment stage as part of a cohort of companies selected to compete in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield MENA competition, conducted through a partnership with Facebook.

The multi-stage investment commitment, valued at over $100 million, comes from Wafra International Investment Company (a wholly owned subsidiary of The Public Institution for Social Security) and represents the largest commitment to a regional agricultural technology company in the Middle East.

As a result of the investment, Ghazi Al-Hajeri, the chief executive of Wafra, will join Pure Harvest’s Board of Directors, the company said.

Pure Harvest said that the new investment will be used to continue the development of controlled-environment agricultural facilities — like greenhouses — to cultivate pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables.

“The global need for innovation in agriculture has never been greater.  The recent COVID-19 crisis and resulting supply chain disruptions further highlight the need for sustainable local-for-local food production capacity, especially for fresh, nutrient-rich foods,” said Sky Kurtz, the founder and chief executive of Pure Harvest Smart Farms. “Together with structured debt financing that we are simultaneously arranging, we will invest Wafra’s funds in growth, key hires, enhancing our technology portfolio, and ultimately to deliver our solution across the region – including in Wafra’s home market of Kuwait.”

Smart agriculture will continue to be an important area for investment as the food supply chain comes under increasing stresses resulting from a changing climate. Desertification, drought, flooding and wide climatic shifts are putting more pressure on the global food chain, according to the United Nations.

In the U.S. that’s driven investments in companies like AppHarvest, Backyard Farms, Bright Farms, Lufa Farms, Plenty and Square Roots. Plenty alone has raised $401 million for its indoor agricultural cultivation system. In France, Agricool has over $38 million for its own indoor agriculture tech.

“Wafra’s investment comes at an exciting time and will allow Pure Harvest to achieve industrial economies of scale as the Company roles out its next generation of advanced greenhouse designs optimized for profitability and sustainability within the MENA region,” said David Scott, Pure Harvest’s chairman, in a statement. “This investment also demonstrates the caliber and far-sighted acumen of Wafra’s leadership, whose actions have placed their institution on the virtuous side of the irresistible macro trends driving explosive growth in technology-enabled agriculture in this region and beyond.”