Softbank and Bezos backed vertical farm startup has global expansion plans

Plenty is a startup that has big vertical farming expansion plans $226 million in total venture funding. They plan to build a 100,000 square foot (2.3 acres) vertical-farming warehouse this year in Washington state outside of Seattle. That farm is expected to produce 4.5 million pounds of greens annually.

Plenty grows plants on 20-foot high towers with vertical irrigation channels and facing LED lights.

In June 2017, California-based vertical farming company Plenty, previously See Jane Farm, acquired Bright Agrotech in an effort to reach “field-scale.”

Bright Agrotech is an indoor ag hardware company that’s focused on building indoor growing systems for small farmers all over the world, in contrast to Plenty, which is aiming to become a large-scale indoor farming business and currently has a 52,000 sq. ft farm in South San Francisco.

Plenty claims to use 1 percent of the water and land of a conventional farm with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Like other large soilless, hi-tech farms growing today, Plenty says it uses custom sensors feeding data-enabled systems resulting in finely-tuned environmental controls to produce greens with superior flavor.

Plenty claims to get 350 times the crop yield per year over an outdoor field farm.

With the backing of SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Plenty has the capital and connections build massive indoor farms on the outskirts of every major city on Earth, some 500 in all. In that world, food could go from farm to table in hours rather than days or weeks.

Bezos Expeditions, the Amazon CEO’s personal venture fund, has also invested. So Plenty could supply WholeFoods.

Early leaders in vertical farming (PodPonics in Atlanta, FarmedHere in Chicago, and Local Garden in Vancouver) have shut down. They had a mix of design issues and high hardware costs. Gotham Greens and AeroFarms have not been as successful with fundraising.

Researchers have documented a steady decline in the amount of calcium, iron, phosphorus, protein, and vitamins in today’s produce over previous generations, thanks to the ways in which modern agricultural methods have stripped nutrients out of the soil.

A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

They are finding about 14-30% drop in various nutrients.

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