How Indoor Farming Will Change the Way We Eat

Reading Time | 5 mins


March 1st, 2019

By Plenty Farms

If you’ve ever compared a luscious peach picked ripe from the tree to one of those firm, greenish peaches that stocks the shelves of your local grocery store, then you know: the produce available to you is rarely the best produce available. Further, the best produce available… is not the best we can do.

From what was once a patchwork of family farms, produce now comes to our tables by way of vast international agribusiness enterprises in constant motion. As the population has continued to boom and demand has continued to rise, focusing agricultural innovation on producing the highest possible yields has been the necessary priority. For the last century or so, that has meant engineering fruits and vegetables to be transported over extensive distances and stored for long periods of time.

And it’s thanks to these modern innovations that we can start our days with mangoes from Mexico or add South African peas to the dinner menu with a simple trip to the grocery store. Grapes—once a much-anticipated summer specialty—have become a favorite after-school snack because we can get them from Chile all year long. Sure, those grapes were likely doused with pesticides in order to make it around the world to the mouths they’ll feed, and yes, year-long access comes at the expense of most of the fruit’s original nutrition and flavor content, but… flavorless grapes and hard peaches are better than no grapes and peaches at all, right?

It’s completely understandable that when you’re carefully selecting produce from the well-stocked bins in your local grocery store, you’re not considering where it came from or at what cost. With the boundless technological and scientific advances right at our fingertips, the consumer’s assumption should be that the produce grown now is more nutritious than ever before. Indeed, it makes little sense that the average fruits and vegetables available today have seen a steady decline in the amount of calcium, iron, phosphorus, protein, and vitamins contained in previous generations’ produce…

Until you consider the ways in which massive agricultural output has stripped nutrients from our soils and made it increasingly difficult to garner the nutrition our bodies need from the produce available to us. This decline in quality makes it clear: we’re working within an agricultural structure that is no longer working for us.

Ask a farmer or backyard gardener planting Black Vernissage tomatoes, Violetta Italia cauliflower or Sheeps Nose apples and you’ll get a different perspective on where farming could be headed today. On an individual scale, there has been a return to specialty farms producing high-quality, pesticide-free local produce. You can now find boutique nurseries devoted to popularizing obscure and highly localized heirloom varieties of everything from pumpkins to sunflowers. More and more farmers’ markets are springing up around the country, offering just about every type of produce that can be grown within a day’s drive, bagged up by people who care about the quality of the products they’re selling.

Unfortunately, the high costs of small-scale farming mean those fresh-from-the-fields strawberries and sunset-hued beets are beyond the pricepoint of most consumers.

It is Plenty’s belief, however, that all 7.4 billion people on this planet are equally deserving of access to the tastiest, most nutritious produce possible. So, we’re following in the footsteps of local farmers who’ve already done so much to reintroduce organic growing techniques and bring exciting heirloom varieties back to farming. And with our cutting-edge technology and breakthrough plant and flavor science, we’re able to mount the next modern agricultural revolution on a much larger scale. Plenty is committed to putting locally-grown fruits and vegetables into the hands of people across the globe, because the most pressing issue with the current quality of produce isn’t just that it’s boring or tasteless—it’s that the limitations of mass-scale farming are a risk to our health

One study found that Californians who live in the least healthy “food environments” had rates of obesity and diabetes 20 percent higher than average; another found that residents of Chicago and Detroit who didn’t have easy access to full-service, produce-stocked grocery stores were dying from diabetes at significantly higher rates. And despite the necessity of making fruits and vegetables accessible to all, more than 50 percent of produce grown ends up being thrown away because it rots before consumers can buy it.

Clearly, there is a breakdown here. It’s a failure that our CEO, Matt Barnard came to recognize firsthand growing up on an apple and cherry farm in rural Wisconsin. And it’s just this access gap that Plenty’s groundbreaking agricultural enterprise seeks to bridge.

Plenty’s approach elevates the entire construction of modern farming—literally. Located in large indoor spaces within an hour’s drive from urban centers, we’re growing crops not only indoors where they’re protected from unpredictable weather changes, but vertically, so they take up a fraction of the space of traditional farming. Implementing the latest in modern technology means that our produce is grown to serve localization and flavor, not the ability to withstand storage and transport.

But here’s the real breakthrough: We’re not sacrificing yield to do it. In fact, we are dramatically increasing the yield possible from an acre of land.

Step into one of our urban farms and you’ll see floor-to-ceiling towers nurturing varieties chosen for their taste and nutrient profile. The latest in sensor technology and machine learning allows us to create the optimum growing environments with no need for pesticides or GMOs. And Plenty isn’t just going to bring consumers fresh, local produce all year long; our growing methods are environmentally friendly too.

We’ve designed techniques specifically for low water use because more than 70 percent of water in developed countries continues to be used for agriculture even as water resources worldwide dwindle rapidly. Look no further than California’s seven-year drought for a frighteningly homegrown example. That’s why Plenty has discovered how to reuse water and carefully control light, temperature, and humidity in order to grow up to 350 times as much produce per square foot, all while using a fraction of the water an outdoor farm would. And by locating our farms close to where people live, we can have our produce on your table within a day of being picked.

Plenty’s farms are taking the quality of the past and the technology of the future to create a present where produce is grown to be as healthy, delicious, and accessible as possible. Because the produce available to you should always be the best produce available.

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