Operations & Food Safety at Plenty - Part 3
In honor of the inaugural World Food Safety Day, as declared by the World Health Organization, Plenty wants to conclude our three-part blog series on food safety with an article on our world-class operations team.
At Plenty, we're constantly worrying about our plants so that you never have to. For us, food safety isn't just a department, or a single step in the journey from seed to table. Food safety is woven into the fabric of Plenty's culture, so that there's not a single person in our company who doesn’t value and live out the Plenty mission to grow safe, fresh food. Our farms begin and end with their ability to grow healthy plants that nourish healthy people — and that objective can only be successful when we're confident that every single plant we're growing is safe for our consumers to enjoy.
If one link in the chain is broken, then everyone suffers.
That's why food safety is the top priority in every seed we plant, and every crop we grow. Each time an employee changes gloves, or steps into a foot bath, or zips their sterilized coveralls, there is an understanding that no matter how delicious and nutrient-filled our produce is, we cannot restore human health unless we take every precaution necessary to grow food that can be enjoyed without fear of pathogens or pesticides. These food safety measures span all the way from our state-of-the-art farm designed for efficiency and cleanliness, to our internal traceability program, to enforcing rigorous hygiene protocols on the one element of a Plenty farm that cannot be controlled with science or data: humans.
Plenty employees can be counted on to keep our farms and produce clean because every single person who works at Plenty has been thoroughly educated and trained in food safety. In order to protect the health and wellbeing of our consumers, we believe that it's the responsibility of every Plenty department—from engineering, to operations, to accounting—to always keep food safety at the forefront of their mind. A food safety issue is the one thing that could stop Plenty's production in its tracks, and so food safety must be the entire company's priority. Each Plenty employee is educated on pathogens, the ways that they spread, and how to prevent them from ever entering our farms. And for the Plenty associates actually working inside the farm, food safety training is even more exhaustive.
Every new grower goes through a 60-day onboarding program that includes a robust education in personal hygiene and food safety protocols for the farm. Once trainees are able to enter the farm, we use a color coded hairnet system to ensure that everyone inside has a visual awareness of which associates are still in training, and should only be touching equipment or plants under supervision. At Plenty, we know that the best lessons are taught with time and attention, and by educating our associates on the consequences of food safety, we've developed a culture of meticulous care.
In execution, all of that careful training leads to hypervigilance inside our farms. Our strict hygiene policies start with the BMP areas dedicated to full gowning prior to entering any clean space on the farm. Humans entering a Plenty farm must be dressed in sterilized coveralls, gloves, boots, and a hairnet; they then pass through a sanitizing foot bath and an airlock entrance to prevent outside contaminants and pathogens from being introduced into our clean growing environment. Additionally, all employees who work inside the farm participate in safety quizzes during their gown-up as a regular reminder of just how vital food safety protocols are to the quality of our crops.
Once inside the farms, hand-washing and glove-changing (latex-free) stations are conveniently located throughout the space so that there's never any hassle in following the mandatory glove-changing protocols for switching between stations and equipment. And since the majority of the human interaction on our automated farms is not with the produce itself, but with the machines that handle Plenty produce, all farm equipment has been specifically designed by our engineering team to be cleaned as easily and thoroughly as possible. That makes for painless sanitization throughout the day, in addition to the comprehensive farm cleaning that takes place every night.
It's vital that we make our food safety policies as efficient and intuitive as possible so that they become a part of every Plenty employee's lifestyle. And just as importantly, we make sure that all employees approach food safety with the humble knowledge that none of us are above reproach. From the greenest trainee on the farm, straight up to our CEO, Plenty is a self-regulating environment. Encouraging all of our employees to have a voice, and to speak up if they see an issue is essential to keeping everyone at Plenty accountable for the safety of our produce.
For any reported customer food safety concern or in the unlikely event of a food safety incident on the farm, the farm’s food safety representative would immediately be notified and called into action. We also have a food safety task force in place that can be quickly assembled in urgent situations to help identify, contain and address the affected crop. Our system also allows us to quickly halt production if necessary, until all proper inspections and sanitations can take place. Though it is highly unlikely that dangerous materials can make it through our sanitized personal protective equipment, airlocked entrances, our integrated pest management systems, and inside a Plenty farm… our consumers can rest assured that the protocols are in place to handle any food safety issue efficiently, thoroughly, and without hesitation.
This guiding motivation to protect people, plants, and the planet is what threads food safety into the very fiber of Plenty's mission. Because we cannot aim to feed the world better without also doing everything we can to feed the world safely.
All of the problems solved by vertical indoor farming—better flavor, higher nutrients, accessibility, affordability—mean nothing if our food makes someone sick. Food safety is the foundation of Plenty's work to grow healthier, more delicious produce because without it, we can't feed people well. And feeding people well is Plenty's only priority. Because we know that we're not simply growing produce; we're growing the future of human health.