Twitter Former CFO Joins SoftBank-Backed Farming Startup Plenty
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March 15th, 2019
Twitter Inc.’s former chief financial officer has joined Plenty Inc. in that role as the indoor farming startup prepares for international expansion and improvements to its vertical growing technology.
Mike Gupta helped take Twitter public in 2013 and left for Docker Inc. two years later. Earlier, Gupta was treasurer at gaming company Zynga Inc., helping to lead its initial public offering, and had previously spent about eight years in various roles at Yahoo.
“It’s not new for me to be in hypergrowth companies that are entering unchartered territory,” Gupta said in an interview. “This is a very capital intensive business so having someone who can think about how we raise and deploy capital in the long run will be very important.”
SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Plenty has made several high profile hires in recent years, including Tesla Inc.’s former battery directory Kurt Kelty and the electric carmaker’s former vice president of engineering, Nick Kalayjian.
Founded in 2014, Plenty boasts it can yield more produce in a given area than conventional farms, with only a fraction of the water. Its backers include funds that invest on behalf of Eric Schmidt, a director of Alphabet Inc., and Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc. Plenty is betting that with its technology and a previous $200 million investment from SoftBank, it will be able to scale its farms around the world.
The startup is in the process of building a new version of its farms, called Tigris. Matt Barnard, a co-founder and chief executive officer of Plenty, said that the new farm will be able to produce more than 40 times the amount of leafy greens that its current farms can grow, while using less energy. Plenty aims to roll out Tigris later this year.
The company currently has 200,000 square feet of indoor space in south San Francisco, but is only using a small portion for produce it sells. The majority of the space is used for testing and research and development. Plenty, which has been delivering produce in the Bay Area since June 1, sells its its food online and in neighborhood grocery stores.
Vertical farming technologies have yet to revolutionize agriculture and several companies have shut down in recent years because they weren’t economically sustainable. While most vertical farms grow produce on parallel shelves, Plenty uses tall columns from which plants sprout horizontally. The company says the method allows it to more cheaply remove excess heat emitted by LED grow lights and reduce energy needed to deliver nutrients to the plants.
Plenty has a team working on early stage development in China, and is in discussions with distributors and partners in Japan, Abu Dhabi and other regions.
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