Plenty to build ‘world’s largest’ indoor vertical farming complex

Plenty Unlimited Inc. said Wednesday it will build the world’s largest indoor vertical farming campus on 120 acres near Richmond, Virginia. The $300 million facility will grow multiple crops, including leafy greens and tomatoes, starting with a Driscoll’s strawberry farm in the winter of 2023-2024. The company says the project, expected to produce up to 20 million pounds of produce annually, will also create 300 new jobs.

The farm complex will include 30-foot climate-controlled and pesticide-free grow towers that maximise light exposure for crops, which will be tended to in part by tall robotic arms. Similar locations in California and a research center in Wyoming already provide kale, mizuna and arugula to Whole Foods Market Inc. and Walmart Inc.

Based in California, Plenty recently closed a $400 million Series E funding round, which it says is the largest investment in an indoor farming company to date. The company claims to get up to 350 times the yield per acre of traditional farms.

“We solve for the ability to have fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, grown anywhere, pretty much for everyone,” said Arama Kukutai, the company’s chief executive officer.

More than 2 000 vertical farms are already filling plates across the US. While indoor farms use much less water and land than conventional ones — and tend to save on transportation costs thanks to closer proximity to consumers — they also typically require large energy inputs. Plenty uses 100% renewable power for its San Francisco farm, according to its website.

Investor interest in the vertical farming sector has picked up as record heat and droughts underscore the vulnerability of the global food supply. New York-based Gotham Greens raised more than $310 million in its latest funding round, the company said earlier this week.

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