Retail giant Walmart has signed an agreement to invest in Plenty Unlimited Inc., an indoor vertical-farming company, as part of a $400 million Series E funding round subject to regulatory approval. Walmart’s equity investment is part of a broader strategic partnership to use Plenty’s farming technology platform to deliver fresh produce to Walmart retail locations. The deal comes as grocery stores are under pressure to adopt more environmentally friendly practices while improving supply chain efficiencies.
Vertical farmingis meant to supplement, not replace, traditional farming practices to help increase food supply and help alleviate current challenges on the food system in a sustainable way. Produce grown through vertical farmingcan be cultivated year-round in controlled environments, close to the point of consumption and distribution, increasing surety of supply. Plenty’s indoor farming architecture differs from greenhouses and other indoor farms by combining engineering, software and sustainable crop science to grow multiple pesticide-free crops at higher yields that require less water on one platform. By building its farms closer to the consumer, Plenty helps reduce transportation and food waste, keeping items fresher for longer in 100% recyclable product packaging.
As part of their strategic commercial agreement, Walmart and Plenty will work collaboratively to create a new product category in vertical farming, consisting of fresh products, and to bring Plenty farms closer to Walmart customers to offer year-round sustainable produce. Starting later this year, Walmart will be able to source Plenty’s leafy greens from its Compton farm in California to all of its stores in the Golden State. Plenty also has a farm in Laramie, Wyo.
“At Walmart, we are focused on identifying and investing in innovative food solutions to bring our customers the freshest, highest-quality foods at the best prices. We believe Plenty is a proven leader in a new era of agriculture, one that offers pesticide-free, peak-flavor produce to shoppers every day of the year. This partnership not only accelerates agricultural innovation, but reinforces our commitment to sustainability, by delivering a new category of fresh that is good for people and the planet,” said Charles Redfield, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S.
According to Plenty, its vertical farms use just 1% of the land required by traditional farming while improving yields 150-350 times per acre. As more Plenty farms are deployed globally, transportation times will decrease, thereby reducing cost and environmental impact due to transportation.
In addition to Walmart, Plenty’s $400 million in a Series E financing round was led by new investors One Madison Group and JS Capital, and existing investor SoftBank Vision Fund 1. The funds will support Plenty’s growth strategy, which includes leveraging its technology platform to sell multicrop farms directly to partners. At the closing of the investment, Walmart will join Plenty’s board of directors.
“Plenty’s unique farming system unlocks industry-leading crop versatility and unit economics by enabling indoor growing year round,” said Arama Kukutai, CEO of San Francisco-based Plenty. “Our farms can be sited anywhere allowing us to put fresh fruits, greens and vegetables on shelf at all times, at speed, for maximum freshness. As a longtime market leader in retail innovation, Walmart is an ideal partner to test and scale access to our quality produce for their customers. This is a game-changer for the agritech industry.”
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates approximately 10,500 stores under 48 banners in 24 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart's fiscal year 2021 revenue was $559 billion. For its third quarter ended Oct. 31, the retailer reported that sales in food categories increased 10%, adding $10 billion in sale volume -- the company’s strongest growth in six quarters.
Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.