5 Questions With Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai
Indoor Ag-Con is excited to welcome Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai to our keynote stage to give the opening morning address on Monday, February 27, 2023. Ahead of his keynote, we asked Arama about some of the company’s exciting developments; the challenges, trends and opportunities he sees for our industry; and what’s next for Plenty. Read more in this month’s CEO Q&A:
In September of 2022 Plenty announced plans to build the world’s largest indoor vertical farm campus near Richmond, VA. Can you share more details on this exciting project?
We’re building a first-of-its-kind campus of indoor vertical farms, which is significant for a few reasons. The structure of a cluster of farms on a shared site creates increased efficiencies as well as the opportunity to grow a wider variety of crops at scale on a single site. The Plenty Richmond Farm Campus has a potential annual production capacity of more than 20 million pounds of fresh produce. First up is our strawberry farm, which we broke ground on last fall and expect to deliver berries in market with our partner Driscoll’s in 2024.
Speaking of growth, can you also share any updates on your Compton, CA farm – including why you selected that location and how it fits into Plenty’s mission and growth strategy?
We want to be a part of building a food future where everyone has affordable access to fresh produce. The Plenty Compton Farm, which will be fully operational this year, is our first commercial farm, so it’s the culmination of nearly a decade of R&D and a major step forward in scaling our growing capabilities. We’re proud to be bringing agriculture back to Compton, and working with local retailers to increase affordable access to our produce for California and the western U.S.
In your opinion, what are the key challenges that the CEA/Vertical Farm industry must overcome?
Achieving scale, and scaling with positive unit economics, is the key challenge vertical farming has to overcome to be a permanent part of our food system. Energy consumption is also a challenge for our industry, so it’s important to prioritize energy efficiency as well as choose locations with access to cleaner energy sources.
As Co-Founder of Finistere Ventures, a venture firm dedicated to Agrifood investment, what trends or innovations in the industry are you most excited about?
There’s so much innovation happening to shape a new future for food that is more sustainable and equitable. The last decade saw more than $120 billion invested in innovation, now it’s time to demonstrate the commercial proof points. I’m most excited about the development of a hybrid agriconomy that brings together vertical farming, cultivation and fermentation to scale food production in ways that are better for the planet.
What’s next for Plenty?
Our focus for the immediate future is applying our technology and plant science R&D to commercial farms so we can scale our reach here in the U.S. and build our first international site. Beyond that, we’re continuing to expand our plant science innovation work to diversify the crops we have in market – strawberries are coming next, tomatoes and more are on the horizon. We are also going to announce new partnerships around financing the indoor asset class.
To learn more about Plenty, visit the website. And, make plans to join us for the 10th Anniversary Edition of Indoor Ag-Con, February 27-28, 2023 to hear Arama’s keynote address AND be part of the largest vertical farming & controlled environment agriculture gathering in the USA! Learn more.