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Vertical farm Plenty financing 200 million dollars to crack the code for growing crops indoors

Aug 29, 2017

Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank group son, Vision Fund, a $200 million-a-dollar funding plenty, which is being carried out by Silicon Valley start-up--plenty, has cracked the "code" for growing crops indoors and efficiently, Bloomberg reported recently.

♦plenty Vertical Farm 

In addition to son, investment management company Moore Capital Management founder Luis Bacon (Louis Bacon) also participated in plenty this round of financing, while plenty's existing investors also follow, such as venture capital company DCM Ventures and Representative Alphabet Executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Amazon CEO Bezos (Jeff Bezos) funds for investment.

 It is also the first time son has been betting on a new venture to subvert the traditional farming industry, and is a move away from its latest investment strategy: He has recently been investing in "unicorns" such as the joint office space WeWork and the Chinese taxi application giant dropping out. Son invests in plenty because he feels the company has the potential to help boost crop yields around big cities. "We believe plenty's team can reshape the current food system and improve people's quality of life," son said in a statement. ” 

Plenty co-founder 马特·伯纳德 (Matt Barnard) will attend a two-day "SoftBank World Congress" in Tokyo, Japan, in Thursday (SoftBank). In a few years before the soft silver World Congress, son has invited Alibaba Group co-founder Ma Yun and other scientific and technological science and technology heavyweights to stage together to discuss the latest trends in the industry. 

Son's investment in plenty is likely to inject enormous impetus into the future development of vertical agriculture. Vertical farming is a concept that has been hyped by the media, but it has so far failed to radically alter the traditional pattern of crop production. In recent years, many companies have closed their indoor agriculture projects, including Atlanta's Podponics, Vancouver's Localgarden and Chicago's FarmedHere, because of their economic viability.

♦ SoftBank founder son 

Bernard and agricultural scientist 纳特·斯托雷, Nate Storey, co-founded Plenty in 2014, which had previously started another indoor agribusiness venture. Plenty says it can grow more crops in the same space than its rivals, and consumes less water because plenty crops are mainly fed by gravity rather than watering. "Because we grow crops in accordance with the laws of physics, we save a lot of money," Bernard said. ” 

Plenty's networked systems deliver specific light, air components, humidity and nutrients, depending on the type of growth of the crop. Plenty claims that the company's crop production in the same region is 350% the traditional farm, compared to 1% of the traditional farm. 

A few months ago, the DCM Ventures co-founder a introduced Bernard to Sun Justice in California. The meeting was scheduled to last for 15 minutes, but ended in 45 minutes because son was interested in plenty's vision. Two weeks later, Bernard and a flew to Tokyo to meet son. A revealed that during the second meeting, son was also skeptical of Plenty's model, but was eventually moved by Plenty's prospects. 

Son is particularly interested in ways to help countries grow crops efficiently. Investors in the Vision fund include sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East. In the Middle East, concerns about food shortages and political unrest have been exacerbated by drought, population growth and lack of arable land. Japan also began importing food after a nuclear accident 6 years ago. 桑尼·拉马斯瓦米 Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the USDA, said that indoor agriculture would play an important role in alleviating the shortage of vegetables. 

A said the investment in the Vision fund was mainly used to help plenty to expand both domestically and abroad. Eventually, the company hopes to build customised farms around the world's largest cities. A said SoftBank has a wide network of contacts around the world, "hoping to help plenty to expand very quickly, especially in China, Japan and the Middle East." ” 

Distinctive vertical cropping 

Unlike most other indoor farming companies that grow food in rows of shelves, plenty vertically grows food, and every plant comes out from the side of a tall, sharp tower. Light is also vertical, not from one vertex to the surrounding. 

Plenty co-founder and chief science officer Natestorey said: "When the sun is no longer constrained by outdoor sunlight, it can work faster and easier, and machines can work faster, which is more economical than building traditional farms." Using gravity to provide water and nutrients can be more energy efficient. ” 

Plenty can produce more food in less space than rivals like Aerofarms or Bowery. When Aerofarms announced that 130 times times more traditional agricultural output could be achieved in a given region, plenty could reach 350 times times as many. This is why plenty produces more plants in limited space without sacrificing plant health. 

The design, known by the company as a "building of scale", can produce the same output as a large field in a small space. Some early urban agricultural enterprises are limited by the scale of production. 

"Small-scale growth is not profitable in 2017, and many systems will not change," Barnard said. Small-scale cultivation is unlikely to get the desired labor efficiency, which essentially requires more human input. ” 

Pursue technology while paying attention to cost 

Early indoor aquaculture companies such as Chicago's FarmedHere, once the nation's largest indoor farm, are expected to expand nationwide, but in January 2017 it was declared closed. Companies like this will still be plagued by costs such as LED lighting, even though the cost has fallen rapidly in recent years. 

Podponics, an indoor farm in Atlanta, which raised $15 million from investors, went bankrupt in 2016, crushing its own system, especially labor costs. 

Local Garden, a greenhouse in Vancouver, went bankrupt in 2014 after suffering from productivity and capital problems. "It's a matter of timing," Barnard says. "Our technology is necessary to get the right economic effect, but that's not enough." In other words, technology enables us to capitalize on commercialization in other areas. Utility computing, networking, and machine intelligence, these technologies, which were not efficient five years ago, are now easier to obtain. Know that seven years ago, it takes 64 times times as much to buy the same number of LEDs as today. So we will make the most of the land and add it to our design. ” 

The company continually updates its designs, adjusts the location of lights, vertical layouts, or other adjustments to the location of the towers in and out of the room to reduce costs, increase productivity, or enhance taste. A custom-designed "growth medium" replaces the soil with recycled plastic bottles, maintains roots, provides nutrients, and provides a living environment for microbes. 

The system makes green leafy vegetables more economical than growing crops, and green leafy vegetables are now the main product of most indoor farms. Then there may be strawberries, and perhaps tomatoes and cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables, all varieties will be better than the general store to provide a good taste, and shorten the supply chain can also be kept fresh. 

A special supply chain 

The company plans to build farms around large cities, rather than directly in urban areas, where urban constraints make distribution centers best suited to existing supply chains. "If you want to ship a large number of super tasty products to a large grocery store in the center of the city, this grocery store is your distribution center," Barnard said. Otherwise, it needs to be transported from outside the city to the distribution center and then transported to the store. Now you've spent hours or even one or two days. Our commitment to customers is to really achieve a few days of fast. ” 

Faster delivery of food to customers, a process that retains both mouthfeel and nutrients (longer than one weeks in the supply chain, and loss of up to 55% of nutrients, such as vitamin C). Like other indoor agriculture, the technology also saves farmland; in the same space, plenty yields 350 times times higher than traditional agriculture, and only uses 1% of the water. In a closed environment, indoor farms have few pests, and companies can use ladybugs rather than pesticides to remove bugs. Through a special supply chain, the process also lowers costs and pollution. 

"30%-45% of the output value of past shelves is the cost of trucks and distribution centers," Barnard said. "When we get better food, they are more tasty and nutritious and use fewer pesticides, it doesn't make any sense to us," he added. I like to call human food, not truck food. ” 

"Our advantages in terms of cost are huge, but what's more exciting is that we are not only having an edge on real costs, but also very competitive with carbon costs," Storey said. "He believes that in the end, many varieties of food produced in indoor farms will be more sustainable than outdoor growth."

 The company envisages the construction of farms in major metropolitan cities around the world, followed by other major markets in 2018, following the landing in San Francisco in 2017. "People will see that nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diets will taste more delicious and they will grow in an indoor farm," Barnard said. ”

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