Advancing indoor agriculture: Plenty scales vertical farming with new research center
03 Feb 2023 --- Plenty Unlimited is expanding its R&D in the vertical farming field by building what it says will be “the world’s largest vertical farming research center” in Wyoming, US. The new facility will double Plenty’s current available research space, further diversity in its research environments and support the transition of new crops to commercial farms by incorporating areas that closely mirror Plenty farm environments.
Construction of the 60,000 square foot facility begins later this year and will open in early 2025.
“Our new facility will expand our capability to grow the widest variety of crops, which is key to unlocking the potential of this category and addresses a major limitation for the industry today,” says Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai.
“This is needed to push indoor farming forward and make fresh food accessible to everyone.”
Plenty’s R&D team has already filed over 100 new patents over the last two years, including developments such as new crop-growing systems, plant stress detection mechanisms and new varieties of tomatoes.
“Our research and development have already driven Plenty to achieve industry-leading yields in our core crops of leafy greens, strawberries and tomatoes,” says Dr. Nate Storey, Plenty co-founder and CSO.
“With this new, state-of-the-art facility, we will accelerate our pipeline, further increasing yields and bringing more diverse crops to market sooner,”
Wyoming welcomes the news, especially the jobs, education and agricultural knowledge the facility will bring to the area.
“We need to diversify domestic agricultural production to increase the stability of the national food supply chain and ultimately to increase food security,” flags Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Plenty will collaborate with local Wyoming universities and start-ups throughout development.
“The level at which Plenty will be operating in this new facility will truly advance Wyoming’s preeminence as a global center of indoor agricultural research,” notes Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.
Vertical farming on the rise
With increasing issues of food chain and crop yields disrupted by climate change and the invasion of Ukraine, producers are looking for more sustainable methods of reliable production. Many are finding their answer in vertical indoor farming.
As the Ukraine war demonstrates the over-reliance on a few breadbaskets worldwide, one Dutch company is producing climate-resilient indoor-grown wheat that could unlock high yields and diversify options for industry.
Infarm grows wheat in an indoor farm using no soil, chemical pesticides, and reduced water use.
Rising beer prices have forced producers to seek more affordable means of growing hops. AI-backed vertical farming specialist Ekonoke is growing hydroponic hops to mitigate climate risks often associated with this crucial ingredient for the premium beer industry.
Growing hops in a completely controlled environment could be the answer to maintaining consistently high levels of special compounds that contribute to a more desirable flavor and aroma profile.
By James Davies
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