Walmart is investing in indoor vertical farming company Plenty and will offer the company’s sustainable produce at its California retail stores.
The investment is part of a $400 million round of Series E funding for Plenty, which uses vertical farming architecture that combines engineering, software and sustainable crop science to grow multiple crops on one platform. Plenty says its technology improves on traditional agriculture’s use of water and land.
Plenty also says its production efficiency and flexibility regarding where farms can be located reduces transportation needs and food waste by keeping items fresher for longer in 100% recyclable packaging. Plenty says its farms use 1% of the land a traditional farm does and can produce up to 350 times more food per acre.
The US Department of Agriculture says vertical farming is beneficial because produce can be grown indoors year-round, and controls the use of light, temperature, water use and often carbon dioxide levels. It also cuts emissions and food waste by only needing to travel a few miles from farm to retail location as opposed to thousands of miles by plane or truck.
Walmart will begin offering the produce later in 2022 and says the investment reinforces its commitment to sustainability.
Those efforts include a $2 billion green bond it obtained in 2021, which is said to be the largest by a US corporation. It is intended to help Walmart achieve total renewable energy.
Walmart also has pledged to be emissions free by 2040 and started an effort called Project Gigaton to help its suppliers reduce 1 billion metric tons of emissions by 2030.
Sustainable agriculture is an increasing focus for supply chains as well, especially with growing demand for transparency of production and nature loss’s impact on emissions and revenues. That has led companies like McDonald’s and PepsiCo to form partnerships such as AgMission, which aims to reduce emissions in agriculture.
Currently all of Plenty’s vertical farms are located in California. The Associated Press reported that the company is building a vertical farm in Compton, California, which Plenty says will be the world’s largest vertical farming producer.
As part of the investment, Walmart will join Plenty’s board of directors. CNBC reported that the size of Walmart’s equity stake was not disclosed and that the funding was led by One Madison Group and JS Capital, with participation from SoftBank Vision Fund. The funding is subject to regulatory approval.