Outside Lands’ Hottest New Act: Vertically Farmed Kale
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August 8th, 2018
One new act looking to establish itself at Outside Lands alongside headliners like Janet Jackson and Beck: A South San Francisco vertical farming company. Plenty, which hasn’t yet sold its produce to local consumers, is staging its very Bay Area debut this weekend at the music festival’s “Eco Lands” farmers market, set among the many festival stages in Golden Gate Park.
Plenty’s produce — just leafy greens so far — differs from its typical counterparts at grocery stores and farmers markets, CEO and co-founder Matt Barnard contends. It’s all produced hydroponically in carefully controlled, indoor farm environments (devised with the help of machine learning).
That also makes Plenty’s greens stands out in terms of flavor, Barnard claims. “I’ve seen people just snacking on [our arugula] like a potato chip,” he says.
Outside Lands attendees can decide for themselves. On Saturday, Plenty will give out samples of arugula, either on its own — potato chip style — or wrapped around figs with prosciutto (or zucchini) and a hazelnut dukkah sprinkle. Friday they’ll have kale and Sunday will be a spicy greens blend.
Performers can get a taste of Plenty greens, too. For the big name acts, Plenty commissioned big-name chef Melissa King to prepare “power bowls” backstage.
Why all the spotlight for some greens? Only 24 percent of grocery store produce is identified by brand, Barnard says, so Plenty’s products could get lost in the shuffle. The unique debut is reminiscent of the successful Impossible burger rollout: Rather than sending its plant-based meat substitute straight to Whole Foods, the Redwood City-based Impossible partnered with well-known chefs to land it on elite menus. Now, a few years later, it’s at White Castle.
Like Impossible, Plenty’s value proposition as a company is environmental. Growing vegetables — and soon fruits — near consumer markets year-round will cut down on environmentally detrimental shipping and trucking, as well as their associated costs.
The idea has attracted lots of investor attention: Plenty has more than $200 million in funding. Next up: Generating consumer demand. After this weekend, Plenty will prepare to roll out a Bay Area delivery program (think CSA boxes). Its next market is Seattle, which the company will supply with produce grown indoors in nearby Kent, Washington.
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