CNet has a piece about the new vertical faming facility opened by Plenty in Compton, California, that the company believes will strengthen its ability to offer a "compelling alternative that uses less land than traditional farming."
"Since Plenty's produce can be grown closer to where it'll be consumed, the energy-cost of transportation goes down. The company's vertical system also allows plants to be grown at times of the year when they might not otherwise be available.
"However, growing indoors also poses some unique challenges.
"The sun shines for free, but re-creating a comparable nourishing light source indoors requires energy (not to mention all the power-hungry robots shuttling Plenty's plant towers around). Plenty buys its power from the grid. Nate Storey, the company's chief science officer and co-founder, tells me that Plenty specifically seeks out areas where renewable power such as wind and solar are either readily available or set to become a key source for the grid in the future.
"Storey says he sees Plenty as offering a new source of demand for the growing renewable energy sector's supply and demand equation."
The story notes that "Plenty's goods can be bought at certain locations in partnering stores like Walmart, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods. Storey tells me they're priced similarly to other organic fare. Plenty is labeled 'pesticide free' rather than organic. The organic certification does allow for the use of some pesticides, so Plenty's reps say their greens are 'beyond organic' and don't utilize GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.
"Next on Plenty's agenda is growing strawberries and tomatoes vertically, so keep your eyes out for that."
- KC's View:
There is a lovely bit of poetry to the Compton location, since what is now an urban environment as recently as 60-70 years ago was largely farmland. The folks at Plenty, as they were planning this facility, made clear that one of their goals was to be able to provide solid middle class jobs to an area that often has been lacking in them - essentially looking to offer hope to neighborhoods where there sometimes has been a dearth of optimism.
This is part of Plenty's continuing evolution - I had a chance last year to see its South San Francisco location, which was impressive, and the folks there were enormously enthusiastic about their Compton plans. Now, having outgrown the Northern California location, Plenty seems to be centralizing its operations 400 miles to the south.
One other thing. Walmart isn't just a customer for Plenty. It also is an investor, having been part of a $400 million raise earlier this year. If nothing else, this ought to underline Walmart's food-centric ambitions.