On Wednesday, West Coast agtech and vertical farming startup Plenty Unlimited announced that it has secured $140 million in Series D funding. Existing investor SoftBank’s Vision Fund led the latest round, along with new investor Driscoll’s, the “big berry” behemoth that controls about one-third of the $6 billion U.S. berry market.

The latest investment round will fund Plenty’s recently announced collaborations. These include a joint development deal with Driscoll’s to grow its proprietary high-flavor strawberries in similarly ginormous vertical farm in Laramie, Wyoming; as well as its deal with grocery chain Albertsons, to bring Plenty greens to 431 of its California store locations.

Additionally, Plenty will continue development of its new farm—on track to become the world’s highest-output vertical indoor farming facility—in Compton, California.

Plenty has raised over $500 million to date, making it the market leader in sustainable indoor vertical farming. Other investors include you-know-who’s Bezos Expeditions, early-stage agriculture investors Finistere Ventures, and tech VC Innovation Endeavors.

Less land, more farm

Plenty’s business model is based around farming without conventional farmland or inputs. Instead, it uses data analytics, machine learning and customized lighting to iterate its indoor growing processes at rapid speed, using a technology platform that generates more than 200 years worth of growing data each year.

This data-driven, high-speed agri-food platform has allowed Plenty to show over 700% yield improvement in leafy greens in the last 24 months, while maintaining unique flavor and quality. Its selling point is the year-round delivery of pesticide-free produce that “tastes like it was picked fresh from the garden.”

The vertical design of Plenty’s facilities produce up to 400 times the yield of traditional field farming, producing more food with less water and land. The company’s key facilities are capable of growing some 1500 acres in a building the size of a big box grocery store, while saving over a million gallons of water per week compared to conventional farming techniques.

“Plenty has built an intelligent, scalable agriculture platform that delivers unprecedented flavor, purity, consistency and yield,” said Matt Barnard, co-founder and CEO at Plenty. “The recent disruptions in the global supply chain caused by the West Coast wildfires and COVID-19 have highlighted how quickly our access to quality produce can be thwarted. Plenty’s controlled and resilient farms and local distribution made it easy for us to scale quickly, even during the pandemic, demonstrating that our indoor, vertical farm flourishes under environmental pressures and delivers delicious greens along with the sales that come with it.”

News from Pontifax

The SoftBank-led re-up for Plenty comes amid a busy several days in the agriculture technology and real assets investment space. Last week, California-based Pontifax AgTech, the food and agriculture investment arm of life science VC Pontifax Venture Capital, announced the final close of its second fund (Pontifax AgTech Fund II) at $302 million.

The fund was oversubscribed past its extended hard cap of $300 million, closing at triple the size of Pontifax’s first fund in October 2017.

Pontifax AgTech Fund II drew commitments from leading institutional investors, including U.S. and international financial institutions, state pension funds, university endowments, foundations, investment firms, large-scale growers and family offices.

Pontifax AgTech invests globally in commercially established businesses with proven technologies that improve the productivity, sustainability and efficiency of the food and agriculture supply chain.

Boom

Pontifax AgTech has been a key investor in gene CRISPR developer Caribou Biosciences, whose co-founder Dr. Jennifer Doudna was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Other portfolio investments include AgBiome, which develops crop protection products based on the plant microbiome, soil and phyomicrobial technology firm Concentric, and farm management platform developer Conservis.

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