$200M Invested For a Global Network of Indoor Farms? That’s Plenty

Agtech startup Plenty has reeled in $200 million in financing as the company presses forward on its plans to build a global network of indoor vertical farms.

Softbank Vision Fund of Japan led the Series B funding round for South San Francisco, CA-based Plenty. The round included investments from affiliates of Louis Bacon, the founder of Moore Capital Management, as well earlier investors Innovation Endeavors, Bezos Expeditions, DCM, Data Collective, and Finistere Ventures.

The founders of Plenty say they aim to site their farms near major cities. By growing plants vertically, these farms can produce more food from a smaller footprint while also shortening the supply chain to reach consumers. The company also says these facilities will use sensors and software to optimize growing conditions, avoid the use of crop chemicals, and conserve water—savings that help keep the produce affordable. Plenty CEO Matt Barnard told Bloomberg News that the company’s goal is to provide food priced to fit everyone’s budget.

“That’s the thing that’s hardest to do,” Barnard said. “Now that we’ve accomplished those milestones, we’re looking to scale.”

Plenty has plenty of company in the indoor farming space. In June, New York-based Bowery raised $20 million in its Series A round, four months after announcing its seed round of financing. Bowery CEO Irving Fain hinted at ambitions to build its indoor farms around the world but in the near term, he said the funding will support the construction of at least one additional indoor farm in the New York area. Last year, New York-based BrightFarms raised $30.1 million in a Series C round to bankroll expansion of its indoor farms across the country.

Indoor farming investments have heated up in recent years; the category accounted for $247 million invested in 43 deals last year, according to a report from online investment marketplace AgFunder. But Plenty’s latest round appears to be the biggest agtech investment ever. The $200 million round tops the $100 million Series C round of Boston agricultural microbials startup Indigo a year ago in what AgFunder calculated was previously the largest-ever agtech investment.

Softbank has a lot of money to invest in agtech and elsewhere. In May, the fund announced it had closed on $93 billion in committed capital, a sum that it expected would reach $100 billion. At the time, Softbank said it would seek investments of $100 million or more as it builds a portfolio diversified across technology sectors and geographies. The fund said it is looking to invest in companies “that seek to enable the next age of innovation.”

Plenty has also been a dealmaker in the indoor farming space. Last month, the company acquired Laramie, WY-based Bright Agrotech, a maker of vertical farming equipment. No financial terms were disclosed for that deal but at the time it was announced, Bright Agrotech CEO Chris Michael wrote in a blog post that his company’s technology would help Plenty “build field-scale vertical indoor farms around the world.”

Among the technologies that Plenty gained in the Bright Agrotech deal is the ZipGrow Hydroponic Tower. These towers use gravity to feed nutrient-rich water to plants grown in a vertical plane. Barnard told Bloomberg that using gravity saves energy compared to the energy-consuming systems of other farms that pump nutrients to plants.

Plenty has not yet said where it plans to build its farms, nor has the company set a timeline for bringing produce to the market. Other than the Bright Agrotech facilities, Plenty’s only disclosed location is its 51,000-square-foot warehouse in South San Francisco.

ZipFarm photo by Plenty subsidiary Bright Agrotech.

Frank Vinluan is editor of Xconomy Raleigh-Durham, based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan [at] xconomy.com Follow @frankvinluan

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