There is unusually high excitement about Plenty: The vertical farming startup.
Here is why:
Till now the farming happens in the rural areas and the users are in urban towns. Which means a physical distance between the farm produce and the end users. Sometime the produce travel a long distance, say up to 2000 to 5000 kilometers!
This leads to problems. Cost rises. A good quantity of perishable food get wasted even before reaching the consumers. Because of a long distance travel remaining shelf-life is short for these fruits and vegetables. So consumers buy fewer quantities. Or even avoid these.
The Hydroponic Solution:
To remedy this, startups are getting closer to the consumers. They are using alternative farming technique like hydroponic farming. They cultivate crops in urban farms near the marketplace. This practice reduces distance, and thus the farm produce is fresher and tastier going by the consumer feedback. Hydroponics needs less water too. These factors help get the cost lower.
But hydroponic farms isn’t new news.
Then, why investors so pumped up about Plenty?
I think there are 3 reasons.
1: Plenty is pushing the limits of hydroponic farming
Hydroponic farming is mostly limited to leafy vegetables till now. Plenty is planning and working on the new age farming beyond leafy vegetables. They are experimenting with juicy fruits and vegetables. Like carrots, tomatoes and juicy fruits like strawberries and watermelons.
These hydroponic farms are a great blessing if you ask me. I met a traditional farmer who informed, “We put so much pesticides on cabbage I don’t use produce from the farm in my home”. So people who think they are eating healthy salad are in reality harming their health. After that day, I only use organically produced cabbage in my home. Costly? Yes, but healthy for my kids. The hydroponic varieties are yet not available in my locality in Mumbai.
2: Plenty is not just an agri-company. It is in Agri-tech business.
Plenty is using machine learning and data technologies to increase the produce. Infrared sensors monitor the crops closely. Like the rate of crop growth under different conditions. This data goes back into the programming algorithms. These inputs decide the light quantity, temperature and flow of water to get the best possible yield.
3: Plenty can revolutionize farming
Why do I think so?
Plenty claims their technology supported systems can achieve yields 350 times more than the traditional methods. And water usage, just 1% in comparison.
Imagine vertical farms closer to city centers, crops cultivating under controlled environment. Zero pollution. Almost no travel. Longer shelf-life and better tasting fruits and vegetables. It will shift the focus from farm lands to vertical farms.
No one has a clear answer if that situation will ever arise. But the potential for vertical farming is huge.
Watch this video to see how Plenty is revolutionising the agri-business —