Agriculture has always been an industry ripe for innovation. Though farming is one of humanity’s oldest trades, our planet’s ever growing population and ever-depleting natural resources demand that we meet the same food challenges over and over again with newer, better, more revolutionary answers than ever before.
From the invention of the steel plow in 1837, to the motorized tractor 55 years later, and on to more modern pesticides and genetic modification-the union between technology and agriculture is nothing new. As scientific and mechanical technology have advanced, agricultural practices have adapted to feed the world. But with the planet’s population currently at 7.4 billion people, and projected to grow by another billion over the next decade, now is not the time for complacency.
History reminds us that agriculture must continue to grow and expand with our world in order to create a stronger future. Using the newest advances in technology, the potential for growing beyond conventional practices to delivering nutrient-rich, delicious produce, accessible worldwide and year-round is greater than ever before. After 10,000 years of traditional outdoor farming, we are living-right now-within reach of the next great agrarian revolution.
With indoor farming, we have the power to feed the world and feed it well.
Unlike with agricultural innovations of the past, indoor farming not only solves for feeding the world’s current population, but also sets up future generations for better human and planet health. The majority of today’s tough, tasteless produce is grown primarily to survive being picked early and transported across the world to locales where it is out of season-or where it can’t be grown at all. But there is no longer a need to sacrifice quality, nutrition, or flavor in order to maximize yield and accessibility from our most vital food group.
At Plenty, we’re able to grow the richest flavors from fruit and vegetable varieties that have long been too finicky to be profitable from a traditional farm. By combining proven plant science and transformative technologies, indoor agriculture removes the natural constraints of sun and seasonality from harvesting fruits and vegetables; the highest quality produce can be cultivated on land that was formerly inhospitable due to its climate or soil. Local, accessible produce means cutting out the time, distance, and costs of trucks and warehouses; it means using one percent of the water required for traditional farming; it means adding weeks of shelf life and making fresh produce available to formerly underserved socioeconomic and geographic groups.
Look no further than the island of Manhattan for a historical blueprint. How does one of the world’s most populous cities fit 1.7 million people inside one 23-square-mile patch of island? Well, when it ran out of room to grow outward-it grew upward. Inside the space of a football pitch, Plenty’s vertical farms grow crops up 20-foot towers, achieving yields up to 350 times that of the most productive outdoor equivalent. Inside, computer vision and monitoring technologies assess the plants, facilitating optimal conditions at all stages of growth. Their small footprint and self-sustained environment mean that vertical indoor farms can be placed just about anywhere: right on top of otherwise infertile land, within a stone’s throw of every major city center, and in countries that have formerly had extremely limited access to produce, to name a few.
This heretofore unheard of growth efficiency is becoming utterly necessary in nations like China, which must feed nearly one-fifth of the world’s population with less than 10 percent of its arable land. The ability to cultivate a more diverse crop mix using a fraction of the water than traditional farming is revolutionary for regions limited by water, such as the Middle East. With the potential to stabilize national food security all over the world and decrease demands for imports, indoor farming stands to have a far-reaching impact on international relations as the agricultural sector steadies.
With Plenty’s technology, we have the capacity to grow produce for peak-joy, not peak-travel-performance (think hard strawberries, tasteless iceberg lettuce, and tough-skinned tomatoes). Eliminating weeks of delay between harvest and consumer and thousands of miles in a truck means fresher, more joyful produce on grocery store shelves that people not only need to eat, but want to eat. With indoor farming, humanity can eat more of what’s best for us, and less of what’s not. And not just the privileged few: eliminating distance, time, and distribution centers from the farm-to-table journey knocks out 20–35 percent of the costs currently associated with the produce sold in American grocery stores.
That’s what inspires Plenty’s revolutionary goals: driving crop prices down to provide all nations around the world with an infinitely customizable and adaptable platform from which to harvest their own food locally. No matter the environmental or economic stressors in their area, Plenty believes that all 7.4 billion people in the world deserve access to affordable, desirable, nutrient-rich produce in their diets.
Where we once harnessed the power of animals, machinery, and genetic modification to push yields to new heights, we now look to the future of technology to restore quality to our food without losing output. Sensors, cameras, intelligent computer systems, plant science, flavor science, and artificial intelligence all come together inside our farms to provide plants with the perfect environment in which to thrive. We chase better, smarter, more efficient technology to make human life better, smarter, and more efficient. Just as people have moved indoors to create the most optimal living conditions, we now have the technology to move farming indoors, providing the most habitable environment for produce ever. And when the food we put into our bodies is at peak condition, they nourish us to our peak condition.
Perfectly crafted fruits and vegetables grown all around the world may sound unattainable; producing 40 plants inside the space where one conventionally-grown plant once grew might sound like hyperbole; artificial intelligence and infrared grids monitoring an indoor farm’s conditions may sound like otherworldly science-fiction…
But it’s not. This is the world we live in; the technology we have right now could change the future of one of the world’s oldest industries. Plenty is developing the revolutionary systems with which to reach beyond the constraints of the past and feed all 7.4 billion people on this planet more robustly than ever before. The future of farming is already here-we simply have to grow it.