Walmart invests in indoor vertical farming startup Plenty | Radio WGN 720

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This undated photo provided by Walmart via Plenty shows the Plenty Farms South San Francisco grow room. Plenty says its vertical towers can grow multiple crops on a single platform with consistent flavor and provide higher yields per acre compared to a field. Walmart said Tuesday (January 25, 2022) that it has taken a stake in agricultural startup Plenty, becoming the first major U.S. retailer to significantly invest in indoor vertical farming as a way to deliver fresher produce to its stores. (Spencer Lowell/Plenty/Courtesy of Walmart via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart on Tuesday announced it has taken a stake in agricultural startup Plenty, becoming the first major U.S. retailer to make a significant investment in indoor vertical farming to bring fresher produce to its stores.

Vertical farmers tout their high-quality products that bring higher yields while using less water and land. The method also does not use pesticides, and produce can be grown year-round near the distribution point, increasing supply reliability.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, declined to comment on the size of its investment or the financial terms of the deal. But the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it would join Plenty’s board of directors when the deal closes.

The deal comes as grocery stores are under pressure to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. San Francisco-based Plenty is one of many players in the growing field of indoor farming. Others include Kentucky-based Morehead, AppHarvest, and New York-based Gotham Greens.

In a recent global survey, consultancy firm Agritecture – which works with urban farmers – found that at least 74 indoor farming businesses were founded in 2020 alone.

Plenty, which was founded in 2014 and has a vertical farm in south San Francisco, also operates an indoor plant science research center in Laramie, Wyoming. He is currently building in Compton, California, what he says will be the world’s highest production vertical indoor farm, which is expected to open in the second half of this year.

Plenty said its vertical farm towers are designed to grow multiple crops on a single platform in a building the size of a big-box retail store. Its systems include vertical plant towers, LED lighting and robots to plant, nurture and harvest crops. He says his farms use 1% of the land an outdoor farm needs while providing 150 to 350 times more food per acre.

Walmart said as part of the deal, Plenty’s Compton Farm will ship leafy greens to Walmart’s California stores starting later this year. He said vertical farms will complement, but not replace, traditional farming practices, while helping to increase food supply in a sustainable way.

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