General Atlantic’s BeyondNetZero grows vertical farms for first deal

The $4bn climate impact venture BeyondNetZero's first deal sees it investing in an agricultural strategy to reduce food miles alongside parent General Atlantic and Blue Earth Capital.

BeyondNetZero, the climate impact fund from General Atlantic, has made its first investment in an agriculture strategy that reduces food miles.

General Atlantic launched BeyondNetZero last month with a $4 billion target to invest in growth companies scaling climate change solutions. BeyondNetZero is targeting 15-20 percent returns under chairman and former BP chief executive John Browne.

Vertical farming company 80 Acres Farms received $160 million in series B funding from BeyondNetZero, General Atlantic, Blue Earth Capital (formerly PG Impact Investments) and other investors.

Blue Earth Capital, an impact investing firm founded by Partners Group’s founders, launched a $300 million climate fund in April.

“Profit was not the first question they asked,” Mike Zelkind, CEO of 80 Acres Farms, said of investors. They asked “standard” investment questions but investing in scalable climate and social impact solutions was particularly important to them: “It was planet, people and then profit,” Zelkind added. He declined to attribute conversations to specific investors.

80 Acres Farms operates eight vertical farms in the US near consumers, producing lower carbon emissions from food transportation than traditional farms.

Vertical farms are indoor factories growing food in racks, controlling temperature, light, humidity, supply of water and nutrients – so it is less vulnerable to the climate and soil conditions. They take up less land space than traditional farms, causing less soil degradation and deforestation. Vertical farms have high energy consumption, but 80 Acres Farms are powered by renewable energy, according to a statement from General Atlantic. 80 Acres Farms was founded in 2015 and grows tomatoes, leafy greens, culinary herbs and strawberries.