[Video] Strawberry (vertical) fields forever: Plenty expands from leafy greens with Driscoll’s partnership

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags indoor farming vertical farming Leafy greens strawberries Plenty

While Plenty will continue growing leafy greens in its 100,000 square foot Compton, Calif., facility to retailers like Walmart, the indoor vertical farm heads for the East coast to Richmond, Va., where it will use Driscoll’s genetic know-how to grow flavorful strawberries in an indoor facility currently under construction and expected to open in 2024.

“What we’re doing with strawberries is … looking at flavor, the sweetness, but also looking at what the crunch is like when you [eat] the strawberries—and what the whole package of taste is. It’s not just making sure we have the highest yielding, but the best tasting and the strawberries that give the greatest sensation overall when you bite it,” Sasha Preuss, Plenty’s VP of plant sciences, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Plenty’s foray into strawberries is an opportunity to differentiate itself from other players in the market – highlighting the relatively distinct cultivation methods between leafy greens and flowering crops, yet the architecture between the two farms remains the same, Preuss noted.

“The beauty of leafy greens is almost the entire plant is the product. So, what you grow is what you sell. In strawberries, it’s different. What’s similar, is that they are both amenable to vertical infrastructure, and that’s where … the differences are where we’re using our competencies around manipulating light, the quality of light and the intensity of light [where] we can really modify every feature, every factor within the growing environment to tune it for the crop.”

Despite the differences in growing conditions and cultivation techniques, strawberries’ global appeal have potential to be a lucrative category as a “basket filler.”

“When you walk in and you see strawberries in the front of the grocery store and you put them in your basket, it’s highly correlated with putting more things in your basket,” he said.

Differentiating through architecture, technology and partnerships

Preuss credits Plenty’s vertical architecture as a significant differentiator, citing its “true vertical” feature that allows it to “deal with … generation and removal of heat better than a stacked horizontal environment.”

Additionally, Plenty currently holds more than 30 US-granted patents to harness its technology into its vertical farm methods and sets itself apart through partnerships with companies like Driscoll’s “that have the genetics [and] germ plasm,” Preuss notes.

Preuss will leverage his background in software development and robotic development of robotic automation to advance Plenty’s technological capabilities.

“I could bring the automation [and] work with software developers. So when we think about our R&D or our farms, it’s the amalgamate that it’s again using the best in genetics but it’s also being able to grow in computer vision and using models or AI in order to interpret that,” he detailed.

Preuss added, “I think putting those three things together, the different architecture that we have, the emphasis on technology development and then the emphasis on partnerships, that whole package itself is what differentiates Plenty.”

*Editor's Note: ​ While prior information in an earlier version of the story indicated more than 40 granted patents, the correct number is over 30.

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