Retail giant Walmart has signed a landmark agreement to invest in Plenty Unlimited, an indoor vertical farming company, as it bids to secure access to one of the most advanced forms of fresh fruit and vegetable production and procurement.
The move, the first such investment by a major food retailer, is part of a broader strategic partnership through which Walmart will make use of Plenty’s indoor vertical farming technology platform to deliver fresh produce to its stores.
Subject to regulatory approval, the deal is part of Plenty’s US$400m Series E funding round and will also see the retailer join Plenty’s board of directors.
'Plenty’s unique farming system unlocks industry-leading crop versatility and unit economics by enabling indoor growing year round,” said Arama Kukutai, Plenty CEO. 'Our farms can be sited anywhere allowing us to put fresh fruits, greens and vegetables on shelf at all times, at speed, for maximum freshness.
He added: “As a long-time market leader in retail innovation, Walmart is an ideal partner to test and scale access to our quality produce for their customers. This is a game-changer for the agritech industry.”
Together, Walmart and Plenty said they wanted to create a new, market-leading product category of fresh, high-quality produce grown in vertical farming centres.
The long-term commercial agreement will allow the retailer to source leafy greens for all its California stores from Plenty’s new farm in Compton, southern Los Angeles, starting later this year.
Opened in 2021, the Compton facility was heralded as the world's first, high-capacity indoor vertical farm.
In a statement, Walmart said it was focused on identifying and investing in “innovative food solutions” to bring its customers the freshest, highest-quality foods at the best prices.
“We believe Plenty is a proven leader in a new era of agriculture, one that offers pesticide-free, peak-flavour produce to shoppers every day of the year,” it commented.
“This partnership not only accelerates agricultural innovation, but reinforces our commitment to sustainability, by delivering a new category of fresh that is good for people and the planet.”
Plenty, which has developed a farming technology platform that produces fresh produce without the need for pesticides, says its indoor farming architecture differs from greenhouses and other indoor farms.
That’s because it combines engineering, software and sustainable crop science to grow multiple crops on one platform, at “unprecedented” speed.
“Backed by one of the largest US patent portfolios in the industry, Plenty’s proprietary tech meaningfully improves on traditional agriculture’s use of water and land,” the Walmart statement continued.
“By building their farms closer to the consumer, Plenty helps reduce transportation and food waste, keeping items fresher for longer in 100 per cent recyclable product packaging.”
The retailer added that vertical farming represented “an exciting way to supplement traditional farming practices to help increase food supply and alleviate current challenges on the food system in a sustainable way.”