Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
By teaming up with retail leader Walmart, San Francisco-based Plenty is set to supply California (for starters) with healthy, sustainable food at an affordable price, using only 1% of the land needed for traditional farming.
Agricultural communities sparked our civilizations — humans were able to move
away from the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle and instead domesticate plants
and animals for survival. As incredible as this transition was, the agricultural
industry that allowed us to evolve now has an uncertain future.
Resource-intensive, monocultural farming practices have robbed the world’s
topsoil, essential for growing our food, of essential nutrients — bringing with
it loss of biodiversity and increased water pollution due to the rampant usage
of synthetic fertilizers and
among other catastrophic side effects. Collectively, these factors are impacted
by and contribute to climate change, encouraging weed and pest proliferation,
uncertain precipitation patterns and rising temperatures globally.
“Our existing food supply is fragile, strained and unsustainable,” Dana
Worth, SVP of Commercial at San Francisco-based
Plenty, told Sustainable Brands™. “For example,
in California, the 5th largest supplier of food in the world, we are just one
bad fire season away from disruption to our many growers.”
To ensure a consistent food supply and protect our soil, we need to move away
from unsustainable farming practices towards those which are less degrading to
our land, and produce more reliable and consistent yields.
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Vertical farming has gained considerable interest as an alternative to growing
fresh produce — a recent study revealed that the global indoor farming market is
projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.20 percent when compared to 2021, toward
revenues of $30.8 billion by the end of
“Indoor vertical farming will be a key player in the future of agriculture
because it enables better control of the growing environment,” Worth explains.
“We can focus on growing access, rather than mitigating risks — growing produce
globally, all year round, in previously unthinkable climates.”
Founded in 2014, Plenty’s vertical farming towers allow it to grow produce all
year, regardless of climate, weather,
or other factors impacting crop yield. Its technology reduces traditional
agriculture’s reliance on water and land — using just 1 percent of the land an
outdoor farm requires whilst delivering anywhere from 150-350x the yield per
acre — and addresses challenges associated with traditional farming including
inconsistent yields, supply chain disruptions, high water use, and rampant
pesticide and chemical use.
“Plenty farms can be put anywhere with a power and water connection,” Worth
says. “As more Plenty farms are deployed globally, transportation times will
decrease — thereby reducing cost and environmental impact due to transportation
— while enabling our pesticide-residue-free produce to stay fresher longer on
store shelves and in customers’ homes.”
In addition to improving the world’s fruit and vegetable production, Plenty is
on a mission to reduce food and social
injustice, as well. The company has
put down roots for its first farm in
the goal is to create 50 new, full-time jobs — ranging from growers and
technicians to logistics and operations managers. The farm is expected to open
in the second half of this year.
“Given the nature of indoor vertical farming, the jobs we create will be
high-quality, year-round, career-building opportunities,” Worth says. “Our goal
is to continue to be a partner alongside traditional growers and farmers,
helping to provide healthy, sustainable food long into the next century.”
Plenty’s pesticide-free farming technology is designed to grow multiple crops in
a building the size of a big box store whilst yielding hundreds of acres of
produce. Its unique approach provides optimal growing conditions for plants
through their proprietary grow towers, lighting, robotics and farm operating
systems; the company is backed by one of the largest US patent portfolios in the
“Other farms have limits: space, crop, nature or yield. We can break through
those limits with the potential to grow many crops with consistent flavor and
quality, regardless of climate,” Worth explains.
Earlier this year, Plenty raised $400 million in a Series E funding
round — led by
investors One Madison Group, JS Capital and Walmart — which is
touted to be the largest to date for an indoor farming company.
“Walmart is the first large US retailer to significantly invest in indoor
vertical farming,” Worth says. “Our partnership is focused on creating a new
product category and leading the market in freshness and quality.”
The partnership will allow Walmart to source produce for its 280 California
stores after the Compton facility opens later this year. Through Walmart, Plenty
wants to transform the food supply chain to deliver food that is better for
people and the planet at accessible prices.
“As the largest grocer in the US, Walmart is committed to environmental
responsibility and regeneration. We are always reimagining our food solutions
and how we deliver them to sustain and nourish our customers in ways that are
good for people and the planet,” a Walmart spokesperson told Sustainable Brands.
“With one of the most impressive US patent portfolios in the industry, Walmart
believes that Plenty’s proprietary technology meaningfully improves on
traditional agriculture’s use of water and land. This is another way we are
bringing our customers the freshest, highest-quality foods at the affordable
prices they expect.”
Plenty’s Compton facility will be its highest-output, indoor, vertical leafy
greens farm; the company also recently announced the building of the first
indoor vertical farm dedicated to strawberries in partnership with
Driscoll’s, which will be located on the East Coast.
“We’ve invested millions of dollars in creating the best technology for
indoor vertical farming, and are eager to scale it as we build farms all around
the world,” Worth stated. “Our plant science teams are responsible for
researching over 1,000 different varieties of plants in our R&D facility based
in Laramie, Wyoming. This research is incredibly exciting, as we’ve demonstrated
that we can grow many varieties with our vertical tower approach.”
In the next five years, Plenty plans to expand beyond leafy greens and
strawberries into tomatoes and more. The company has not yet announced
additional sites; but ultimately, it plans to deploy globally to achieve its
Published Jun 28, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Scarlett Buckley is a London-based freelance sustainability writer with an MSc in Creative Arts & Mental Health.