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Plenty plans to build 300 led farms in China

Jan 19, 2018

Matt Barnard, Plenty's CEO, told Reuters in Wednesday that China could have at least 300 such large farms. Behind the company are Amazon and the SoftBank Group, a Japanese technology investment company.

At the moment, Barnard said in an interview in Beijing that the company is recruiting staff in China and is looking for suitable locations and distributors in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. According to Barnard, the company has hired a team in Japan and "locked" some farm sites there.

He did not disclose the financial or investment objectives of the company's expansion. Plenty currently operates only one farm in San Francisco and the other will open in Seattle in the first half of 2018.

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"We see a huge opportunity for people to taste more delicious products, and far more health and safety than anything in the market today," Barnard said. ”

Plenty's agricultural model means growing vegetables and herbs on vertical towers and feeding nutrients to plants through the water circulation system, while LED lighting stimulates plants to grow rapidly throughout the year. In addition, closed farms reduce pests, enabling companies to optimize growth conditions.

This may be a big attraction for China, which has less than one-third per capita arable land in the United States, and in many places the soil is contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides.

Many farms are designed to be 3 to 10 acres (1.2 to 4 hectares) and can produce products that are about 150 to 350 times times the farmland, Barnard said.

Chinese consumers ' concerns about food safety are also a big opportunity. These farms in China will have "experience centers" where people can taste the product and see how it is produced.

"It's very important that people can trust it," Barnard said. He expects the Chinese market to contribute 25% to 50% of the business in the future.

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The company is communicating with restaurants, online retailers and supermarkets to distribute the product. The product will be priced higher than most of the products in the Chinese market.

These indoor farms can be located close to the city, thereby reducing transport from field to supermarket and avoiding the freshness of agricultural products (7.73-0.51%, diagnostic units). This allows plenty to have a variety of options, rather than considering the ability of certain vegetable varieties to withstand transport.

Of course, plenty also have their worries, that is, the cost of operating the lighting system.

"Electricity prices in China are higher than in California," he said. He adds that farms can still be successful as long as the farms are in the best places to have electricity prices.

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