Robotic food firms take advantage of food safety concerns
Vertical agriculture company Plenty has an unusual selling point: its crops of arugula, kale and microgreens are grown in an indoor farm run by robots. That hasn’t always been a winning proposition. Two years ago, the company had to scale back an ambitious international expansion plan, realising it wasn’t ready to bear the cost of pricey new markets despite having taken more than $200m in funding.
But now, with coronavirus heightening food safety concerns, Plenty has a fresh angle. From planting through harvest, its vegetables don’t encounter human hands, meaning fewer chances for virus contamination. “What people seem to be wanting is they want to know their food is safe,” said CEO Matt Barnard. Plenty, which is backed by SoftBank Group, sells packaged greens indoors and on automated vertical planters. “Our goal is for the person eating the food to be the first one who has touched it,” he said.