"We are getting closer to constructing our Laramie R&D facility and are ready to break ground in 2024. It looks promising for expanding capacity and pushing the technology envelope further. Together with the state of Wyoming, we are focusing on Plenty’s target crops and introducing new crops to the product basket,” says Sasha Preuss, Vice President of Plant Science at Plenty, a US vertical farming company.
As the former Head of Lab and Discovery for Bayer Crop Science, and with a rigorous background in plant biology, Sasha has been with Plenty for more than three months now, exploring opportunities in product differentiation. The Wyoming facility aims to expand Plenty’s crop research and tech development. As Sasha points out, the facility is ideal for fine-tuning and controlling all variables needed to explore new crops. In partnership with Driscoll’s, Plenty’s next farm near Richmond, VA is currently under construction and will open in 2024 to service the East Coast with fresh strawberries year-round.
The vertical system Plenty uses for its strawberry cultivation
Exciting benchmarks for 2024
When it comes to pricing, Sasha notes Plenty’s general pricing is around the same price level as organic produce. “Since it’s a relatively new industry, it is competitive with organic produce. As the volume goes up, the cost will go down, enabling us to supply year-round.”
Addressing the cost of technology at Plenty, Sasha elaborates on the fact that the company is approaching the ‘vertical’ aspect completely differently than others. “We are truly growing vertically, packing up to six times more produce in one area than ‘horizontal vertical farms.’ Therefore, we deal with removable heat more efficiently. In 2024, we are pushing our technological innovation on the farm even more, increasing output, and driving down costs. As for the company itself, we aim to expand globally,” Sasha concludes.
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Combining outdoor with indoor expertise
“Driscoll’s has been involved in berry breeding for more than 100 years, making them a great R&D and technology partner for us. With them, we can continuously identify the right varieties and cultivars and introduce them to vertical agriculture,” Sasha adds.
Given the berry giant’s extensive and well-established distribution network, Plenty eyes numerous opportunities to introduce more products to the retail shelves. “Working with Driscoll’s allows us to extend our footprint and have access to numerous consumers. On top of that, we can shorten the supply chain and deliver consistent taste to the berries year-round.” Virginia has been a state of interest, which, according to Sasha, could introduce Plenty to an additional 100 million potential consumers.
Open field yields are becoming less predictable by the day, and to retailers, it’s increasingly intriguing to collaborate with indoor cultivators given the supply chain consistency. ”Through offtake agreements, we can ensure Driscoll’s has a predictable supply, which is unique in agriculture. It’s truly a benefit for indoor growers, and for us to be able to have these outputs. The success we are seeing through the current partnerships with Walmart, Whole Foods, etc., will breed more interest and continue to build strong partnerships.”