June 20, 2019
from Agritecture Website
Plenty's newest vertical hydroponic farm Tigris
in South San Francisco can grow 1 million plants at a time
in a facility about the size of a basketball court.
Plants grow on vertical towers inside Tigris.
An even larger robot arm
then flips the planter vertically and sends it onward to become one
thin sliver of a 20-foot-tall wall of arugula, baby kale and beet
Called Tigris, it grows produce hydroponically - without soil - with LED lights year-round. Unlike outdoor farmers, Plenty's engineers don't have to think about the seasons, pests or what plants will grow best locally.
While Tigris is
specifically designed for leafy greens, Plenty CEO Matt Barnard
said the company has test-grown nearly 700 varieties of plants
within the last year.
Industry leaders say vertical farms can be a solution at a time when labor shortages, drought and climate change threaten outdoor agriculture as well as bring fresh produce to regions that lack arable land.
These farms are springing
up all over the world, including Japan, the Netherlands and
The new farm means Plenty
will be able to greatly widen its distribution to grocery stores and
Plenty's engineers designed ways to control the environment of each individual plant at the new farm, from the temperature to the amount of light, which impacts flavor.
Inside these vertical farms, everything is intentional and nothing happens by chance, according to engineers.
In 2018, the company started selling greens through online retailer Good Eggs, San Francisco market Faletti Foods and Roberts Market in Woodside.
Barnard said Plenty could
expand to as many as 100 grocery stores in the Bay Area by late
2019. He also said prices should continue to drop due to the farm's
efficiency - on Good Eggs right now, a 5-ounce box of salad greens
goes for $4.99.
He also remarked on their unusually lengthy shelf life and the lack of need to wash them as being a huge boon for busy chefs.
The new farm holds rows and rows of tall green walls, which alternate with walls of bright, colorful LED displays you'd expect to see at Burning Man.
Combined with the
climate-controlled environment, it clearly racks up a higher energy
bill than outdoor farms.
Plenty plans to implement solar and wind power at future farms.
The company also claims
Tigris uses less than 1% of the amount of land and less than
5% of water compared with conventional outdoor farms.
In 2017, Cornell
researchers received a three-year, $2.4 million
grant to comprehensively study
indoor farms, including their environmental impacts compared with
outdoor farms. The results are still to come.
The company has started
experimenting with strawberries and tomatoes and expects to respond
to consumers' increasing interest in plant-based protein with
legumes within the next few years.
He said plants adapt to the verticality and support themselves - Plenty has even grown watermelon, which didn't start dropping to the floor until they reached 20 pounds.