Vertical farming company Plenty today announced an expansion to 17 more Safeway stores across Northern California, as well as a new tech feature that lets shoppers text Plenty’s farmers directly.
According to a press release sent to The Spoon, the Northern California expansion is part of the multi-year deal between Plenty and Safeway parent company Albertsons. Through that deal, leafy greens grown in Plenty’s controlled-environment vertical farming facility in the San Francisco Bay Area get shipped to Albertsons stores up and down California. The goal is to eventually get plenty’s produce into more than 430 Albertsons stores, including those under the Safeway and Vons brands.
Simultaneous to this expansion is the launch of what Plenty calls its Text-a-Farmer feature. The tool functions much like its name suggests. A sign in the grocery store’s produce section will display a number users can text questions to. Those questions can be about anything related to Plenty’s produce, from “How should I store my greens?” to “Is your packaging recyclable?” Plenty farmers answer the questions in real time via text with the customer.
The Text-a-Farmer feature will be available at stores selling Plenty’s produce. The idea is to give shoppers more information about their food while they are still in the store.
Commercial-scale vertical farming as a whole, meanwhile, continues to expand, raking in the investment dollars in the process. Bowery, based on the East Coast U.S., recently announced its most “technologically advanced” farm to date, while Orlando, Florida-based Kalera is building out facilities across the U.S., including Colorado and Texas. On the investment front, GoodLeaf just raised $65 million to expand across Canada, Stockholm, Sweden-based Urban Oasis raised $1.2 million, and Plenty itself nabbed $140 million. The latter happened this past October.
Around the time of that investment, Plenty also announced a partnership with Driscoll’s to grow strawberries via vertical farming. Plenty also operates a farm in Compton, California, to service southern parts of the state.