South City Company Grows Vegetables Indoors to Counter Farmland Losses – CBS San Francisco
SOUTH OF SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – The Open Hand Project relies on deliveries of fresh produce to provide nutritious meals to people in the Bay Area with health problems.
When COVID-19 hit, CEO Paul Hepfer worried about a shortage of leafy greens until he received good news from a key supplier.
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“They were able to step up even more during that time because it was even more difficult for our customers to access food,” Hepfer said.
That source is Plenty, an indoor vertical farming company in southern San Francisco.
Spokeswoman Shireen Santosham said the six-year-old startup tripled donations to food banks and grocery stores when the coronavirus and lockdowns disrupted the food supply chain.
“Because we’re local, in some cases we were one of the only products on the shelf,” said Santosham, head of strategic initiatives at Plenty.
From its 10,000 square foot warehouse, Plenty produces arugula, kale, lettuce and salad mixes in a confined, sterile, automated vertical farm.
“Compared to traditional farming, we can produce 200 to 350 times the yield,” Santosham said.
Plenty is already present in more than 40 Bay Area stores and online.
During the pandemic, the company expanded its reach to more than 400 Albertsons stores statewide.
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“It definitely highlighted the value of our model,” said Plenty co-founder Nate Storey.
He says that compared to farming in the fields, Plenty’s indoor model uses less than 5 percent of the water and less than 1 percent of the land.
“So we are able to produce very clean, delicious and nutritious products 365 days a year without fail,” Storey said.
“It’s completely pesticide free; no need to wash off because we grow it in these super-clean rooms, ”added Santosham.
Kale tastes sweet. Storey says it’s because Plenty selects the best crops and then provides the best light and nutrients, without using GMOs.
“When you give plants the perfect environment, they grow really well and plants that grow really well, plants that are really, really healthy, also taste great,” Storey explained.
The abundance itself is growing, with a new warehouse in Compton and the addition of strawberries through a partnership with Driscoll in Watsonville.
The company made the news with reports it backed by some top tech investors like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
“It’s ultimately a platform that will grow dozens and dozens of great crops over the next several years,” Storey said.
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With less farmland available and a greater demand for healthy food, Plenty plans to pack more produce, one warehouse at a time.