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January 25, 2022

Walmart invests in vertical-farming firm Plenty

Plenty has secured close to US$1bn in financing since its founding in 2014.

By Simon Harvey

Plenty Unlimited has added to its funding pot, with the US vertical-farming business attracting investment from Walmart.

The California-based business, a grower of fresh fruits and vegetables cultivated in a controlled indoor environment, has won US$400m in a Series E round.

Plenty described the round as “the largest investment to date for an indoor-farming company”.

Founded by Dr Nate Storey and Matt Barnard in 2014, the latest round builds on the $140m Series D secured in 2020, which at the time took Plenty’s funding to $500m. Barnard, who was CEO, stepped into the executive chairman seat this month to be replaced by Arama Kukutai, the co-founder and a partner at Finistere Ventures, which was an investor in the 2020 financing.

One Madison Group and private-investment firm JS Capital Management, both in New York, led the Series E as new investors. Walmart, described by Plenty as a “strategic partner”, has invested in Plenty for the first time. The SoftBank Vision Fund 1 was a returning investor.

Kukutai said: “We are pleased to work with a strong group of investors who recognise how Plenty’s proprietary approach to building and selling farms delivers a scalable, cost-efficient pathway to bringing fresh, clean produce to market 365 days a year.

“Having Walmart, as one of the world’s largest retailers, partner with us demonstrates the rising importance of indoor agriculture to the future of fresh and their belief in Plenty’s unique technology solution.”

In return for the investment, representatives of One Madison Group and Walmart will join Plenty’s board. The vertical-farming business operates two farms – its flagship facility in south San Francisco and a research and development farm in the city of Laramie, Wyoming. A third is under construction in the California city of Compton.

Under the commercial partnership with Walmart, Plenty will start supplying leafy greens from Compton this year to the retailer’s stores in California. The company already has a deal with Albertsons and a partnership with US fruit grower Driscoll’s.

One Madison’s partners include JS Capital – the family office of Jonathan Soros, the son of billionaire and businessman George Soros – Schusterman Family Investments, and Soros Capital.

Omar Asali, the chairman and CEO of One Madison, added: “The indoor-farming sector is at an exciting inflection point, poised to reach its full potential as a new asset class that addresses the significant need to provide access to fresh, nutritious food year-round, even in geographies where traditional farming is difficult.

“Plenty has truly ‘cracked the code’ on the technology and economics of indoor farming. It has developed an innovative and scalable model that can deliver fresh, sustainable produce to retailers, growers and governments anywhere in the world.”

Last week, Vertical Future, a UK-based indoor-farming business, said it had raised what it claimed was the largest Series A funding capital for the sector in Europe.

From the Just Food archive: Plenty Unlimited on mission to resolve land crisis through vertical farming – interview with co-founder Nate Storey

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