Estonia-based Foodtech startup Natufia Labs has raised $3.5M in a Series A funding round, from KAUST through their venture capital investment arm — the KAUST Innovation Fund (KIF). Butterfly Ventures also participated in the round. The startup will be relocating to Saudi Arabia, basing itself at the KAUST Research and Technology Park (KRTP) to help grow its R&D.
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Co-founded in 2014 by Gregory Lu, Natufia Labs goes beyond farm-to-fork, providing herbs and plants from kitchen-to-table. The Natufia Kitchen Garden is a household product that also answers many chefs' needs, particularly regarding the difficulty of sourcing sustainable, high-quality products.
Previous investors of the startup include Butterfly Ventures (Finland), Techstars (USA), and the family-office Ginco Investments (UAE), who remain minority shareholders.
In regions such as Saudi Arabia, difficulty accessing local fresh produce and reducing waste in the food supply chain are increasingly pressing issues. Natufia Labs' indoor garden was developed in response to these growing challenges of sourcing high-quality, nutrient-rich, fresh produce. Natufia Labs' hydroponic home kitchen technology gives homeowners year-round control over what they want to grow, regardless of climate or season, ultimately resulting in reduced food waste. The technology also aims to lower environmental impacts by reducing packaging, pollution, food miles, and toxins.
The fridge-size appliance is easy to use, and plant growth is fully automated, the startup states. It comes as a self-contained cabinet that provides the optimal combination of water, lighting, and nutrients to grow plants, providing as much as two harvests per day.
Natufia is the latest talent that KAUST has attracted from around the world to energize the culture and community of startups in Saudi Arabia. The company also has a presence in both the U.S. and Europe. However, residing at KAUST will result in further R&D capabilities for innovation and create job opportunities supported by the University while showcasing Saudi Arabia as an obvious choice for business in the Middle East.
Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation and Economic Development said, "We are delighted to welcome our latest spin-in partner, Natufia Labs, to the Kingdom and support their expansion in the region, and the world. Spinning-in talented, entrepreneurial, international startups is a priority for KAUST as we continue to enhance the growing innovation ecosystem in the Kingdom and establish KAUST as the Deep-Tech Heart of the Saudi Economy."
By supporting the new venture, KAUST will help launch the product to the mass market as an "affordable luxury," offering families a holistic, forward-visioning solution to healthy living.
Gregory Lu, CEO and Founder of Natufia commented, "The current COVID-19 crisis has shown how much we must rely on locally produced food. Thanks to the scientific partnership we are establishing with KAUST and the talents we will hire from the Kingdom, we will accelerate the development of our next models and service the increasing demand for our products.
"From Estonian icy-snow winters to the arid climate of Saudi Arabia, sustainable access to food supply is a global issue, so it is more than natural that this technology is thriving from Saudi Arabia."
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