Vertical farming company Plenty announced plans today to build a new farm facility, this one in Southern California. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, the new facility will be located in Los Angeles’ Compton neighborhood. Development is slated to begin later this year, and produce will be ready for market in late 2020.
This will be Plenty’s second vertical farm, following the company’s first San Francisco location, which is already in operation and sells greens at a number of local retailers as well as e-commerce grocery store Good Eggs.
The Los Angeles-based farm will be “approximately the size of a soccer field,” use less than 1 percent of the land and 5 percent of the water used in traditional agriculture, and, like other vertical farms, grow produce in a completely controlled environment without the use of pesticides. The new farm is also expected to create 50 new jobs, from growers to technicians to operations managers.
A huge part of Plenty’s mission for vertical farming is taste. Because vertical farming environments allow farmers to control every part of the grow process, elements like water, nutrients, air, and light from LEDs can be adjusted to best suit the needs of an individual crop. Plenty creates a “recipe” of these elements designed to bring as much flavor out of each plant as possible.
Once in operation, Plenty’s Los Angeles farm will grow kale, arugula, and other mixes of greens.
While vertical farming isn’t yet what you’d call commonplace, we’re seeing more of these large-scale operations ramping up for production around the U.S. AeroFarms, which runs a massive facility in New Jersey, raised $100 million in funding this past summer (and also supplies Singapore Airlines with greens). In the Orlando, FL area, Kalera is developing a vertical farm facility that is expected to grow 5 million heads of lettuce annually. Bowery, too, runs a massive facility in New Jersey that supplies greens to the New York area.
Right now, all these companies grapple with questions of how to make vertical farming economically feasible on a large enough scale to help feed significant portions of the population. We’re not there just yet. There are still questions as to how sustainable these farms really are, and no one’s yet figured out the right mix of plant science and money to grow more than just leafy greens. As Plenty and others continue fine-tuning and expanding their operations, they’ll hopefully provide more clues as to the most valuable role vertical farming can play in the future of agriculture.