You’ve got your grocery tote on standby and your trusty reusable water bottle within arm’s reach 24/7 (it’s basically an appendage now). So if you’ve already started on your journey of making sustainable swaps to your routine, you may be wondering—what’s next?
One place to start: Taking a closer look at the food on your plate. Get this: the USDA reports that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste, including about 160 billion pounds of food in one year alone (those bags of wilting greens in your crisper can add up at scale). Beyond food waste, there’s also the question of the resources it takes to grow it and deliver it to a store near you, all of which can have major implications for the planet.
But it’s time to look up—literally and figuratively. Companies like Walmart are investing in regenerative practices to transform the food supply chain, and the impact can be seen right down to the fresh produce in the refrigerated section. Case in point: Plenty, a pioneer in indoor vertical farming backed by a Walmart investment (and soon-to-be stocked in its retail stores across California).
“In practice, regeneration means restoring, renewing, and replenishing, in
addition to conserving,”
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If you’re not familiar with vertical farming, let us explain: In simple terms, produce is grown in a controlled, closed environment, which means the growing season is every month of the year. In Plenty’s case, crops are grown on towers using a combo of engineering, software, and sustainable crop science to grow food—fast. “This exclusive platform can grow multiple crops in a building the size of a retail box store with a yield of hundreds of acres,” says Worth, an alum of Impossible Foods.
Today, that happens at one indoor farm in San Francisco, California, producing fresh produce for nearby communities, with a Compton location opening this year. “Plenty uses just one percent of the land that an outdoor farm requires while delivering anywhere from 150 to 350 times the yield per acre,” says Worth. Plus, the locally grown produce tastes straight-from-the-garden fresh.
Why grow upwards?
Plenty is leading by example by refocusing agricultural practices to more sustainable techniques. “Plenty was founded to address long term sustainability needs,” says Dana Worth, SVP of Commercial at Plenty. “[Our] mission is to create a robust and resilient agricultural system that delivers exceptional produce for all communities by growing fresh, flavorful, pesticide-free produce year round, indoors, anywhere in the world.”
Photos by Trinette + Chris
How Vertical Farming
Is Reaching for a More Sustainable Future
— Laura Himes, Senior Merchandising
Director of Produce at Walmart
Plenty is looking to expand its operations and services outside of California. But if this doesn’t apply to you, Worth has some advice on how you can adopt the same sustainable spirit, wherever you are: “Buy from brands and retailers that have an explicit commitment to the planet and the people who live on it—Walmart is a great example,” he says. “Ask about how your food is grown, where, by whom and with what method.” Lastly, buy produce that’s in season (hint: indoor is always in season!).
The future is reaching more sustainable heights
Plenty’s business model provides a blueprint for sustainable farming techniques that can be done anywhere, and the eco-friendly impact goes beyond just how the produce is grown.
“Plenty is focused on bringing sustainability into every part of our business,” Worth says. “Because our crops are grown near to where they are consumed, we reduce transportation costs and impact and keep food fresh longer.” Good news for your crisper drawer and your carbon footprint.
The Walmart and Plenty collaboration is poised to alter how we think about growing food, period. “As one of the first large U.S. retailers to significantly invest in vertical farming, Walmart is working with Plenty to create a new product category and lead the market in freshness and quality,” says Worth. “We share a vision…to help transform the food supply chain to deliver sustainably grown food that is better for people and the planet.”
Upwards is growing outwards, too
The future is on the up and up.
Ready to look up? Here’s how indoor vertical farming is transforming food production—and sustainability—as we know it.
Regeneration takes sustainability up a notch as it works to restore the environment to its prior state, not just maintain the status quo.