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Freight Farms cultivates $3.7 million from Spark Capital

Boston-based Freight Farms, a Techstars and MassChallenge alum, has received $3.7 million in venture funding to help build its shipping-container farm business.

The company sells a fully functional hydroponic farm built from used shipping containers, called the Leafy Green Machine. For $76,000, customers get all necessary supplies and can grow herbs such as oregano and basil, and vegetables such as cabbage, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, and kale.

Freight Farms offers a mobile application that monitors the Leafy Green Machines and provides instant updates on temperature and soil conditions, for example, as well as suggestions on the best time for harvesting.

There are 18 mobile Freight Farms in operation, and the company plans to push sales beyond 50 with the help of the new investment.

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Brad McNamara, cofounder and chief executive of Freight Farms, said the funding will help the company accelerate its expansion and release “some new products to help our farmers be more successful.” Customers include mainstream food corporations, conference centers and hotels, and schools such Boston Latin high school, and local burger joint Tasty Burger.

McNamara cited the Courtyard Marriott Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., which is using the Leafy Green Machine to fulfill its mission of growing all its greens on site.

Led by Spark Capital, the funding round includes a previous investor in the company, Launch Capital. Freight Farms had earlier raised $1.2 million in a Series A and an undisclosed amount from Techstars. Spark Capital does not often invest in local companies. The Boston-based venture firm is best known as an early backer of Twitter and Oculus VR. Its other local investments include Superpedestrian, Jana Mobile, RunKeeper, PeerTransfer, Quantopian, and Wayfair.

“There’s a brain trust at Spark that has given us so much support, it’s been really exciting,” said McNamara.

Spark Capital general partner Todd Dagres said Freight Farms has the characteristics they looks for in a startup: a winning character, a singular product, and a market opportunity.

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“We feel like these guys have the goods in all three categories. It is a very unique product,” he said.

While a venture firm’s primary job is to make money for its investors, Dagres said, Freight Farms provided Spark Capital a chance to help create a product good for the environment.


Dennis Keohane can be reached at dennis.keohane@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DBKeohane and on betaboston.com.