San Francisco-based Plenty Unlimited Inc.—an indoor vertical farming company—is taking bold action: The company is moving farms out of rural areas and bringing them into the heart of the city! But there’s more—it has flipped the farms’ orientation. In point of fact, Plenty Vertical Farming is doing it vertically to work around the problem of scarce arable land. Notably, Plenty vertical farming CEO Matt Barnard is out to change how society grows and eats fresh produce. Instead of growing crops in the field, he advocates for planting vertically to save space and eliminate the need to have large parcels of land before one can grow food. Such is an ideal scenario for people living in cities, where fresh produce needs to be transported from rural areas since ferrying produce from the mountains or rural regions adds to cost and can be delayed when weather conditions aren’t favorable.
With massive farms from Plenty vertical farming operating within the city, fresh produce can reach tables in a matter of hours rather than days. This case significantly lowers food costs and stabilizes food supply for years to come. The idea is bold and definitely long term.
Financial Backing for Plenty Vertical Farming
This bold idea from Plenty vertical farming has received generous backing from SoftBank—one of Japan’s largest telecommunication companies. Headed by mogul Masayoshi Son, the company bankrolled $200 million into Plenty vertical farming’s coffers so it can further its plans of creating vertical farms in around 500 cities worldwide. (Remarkably, this move has been hailed by many as the largest agriculture tech investment in history.)
Bloomberg reports that Barnard is already in talks with government officials from at least four continents as well as top honchos from Wal-Mart and Amazon. The first farm in the Bay Area is set to start making deliveries to San Francisco grocers by the end of the year.
Details on the Plenty Vertical Farming System
Unlike traditional farms, Plenty vertical farming’s system uses 20-foot vertical poles where the plants shoot out horizontally. The poles are lined up next to one another with roughly 4 inches of space in between. These poles are surrounded with infrared cameras and sensors which enable the staff to monitor conditions periodically. There is a system in place which can adjust LED lights, air composition and humidity within the indoor farms.
There’s no need to use soil because water and nutrients are fed into the top of the poles, and gravity takes care of the rest. The excess heat from the light also rises naturally to vents in the ceiling. Barnard says that working with physics rather than against has allowed them to save a lot of money.
Bridging the Global Nutrition Gap
Barnard’s company believes that growing rooms or vertical farms—such as those from Plenty vertical farming —will be able to produce quality organic food at very cheap prices.
The idea of vertical farming isn’t exactly new, but where food is grown appears to be the biggest advantage for Plenty vertical farming. Rather than growing produce far away from where consumers are, it will strategically place these fruits and vegetables within a few minutes of customers and grocery stores.
As the current scenario stands, fruits and vegetables grown in California and Arizona often need to travel roughly 2,000 miles before they get to the store. The produce then sits a couple more days before it is picked up and eaten. This scenario leads to less-than-fresh fruits and vegetables —and significantly more waste in the end.
Plenty Vertical Farming and Beyond
Financial backing from SoftBank gives Plenty vertical farming the funds they need to expand across the nation. It also helps them establish a reputation as a company with a growth model that is to be reckoned with. Plenty’s enclosed system allows fresh organic produce to be produced almost anywhere—and that is a huge change that will have a bold impact on how we grow and consume food!