BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: Walmart will become the first major U.S. retailer to significantly invest in indoor vertical farming, after announcing it bought a stake in agriculture startup Plenty to deliver fresher produce to its stores.
Vertical farmers claim they can achieve higher quality and higher yields, while using less water and land and without the use of pesticide, as well as produce crops the entire year near points of distribution.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, said it will join the San Francisco-based farming company's board at the close of the transaction.
Walmart's investment in a rapidly growing sector comes as grocery stores are under pressure to offer more environmentally-friendly foods.
Plenty is one of many players in the indoor farming sector, which also includes Morehead, Kentucky-based AppHarvest, and New York-based Gotham Greens.
In a recent global survey, consulting firm Agritecture reported that some 74 indoor farming companies were started in 2020.
Founded in 2014, Plenty has a vertical farm in South San Francisco and also operates an indoor plant science research facility in Laramie, Wyoming.
Plenty is currently building what it claims will be the world's highest output vertical indoor farm, in Compton, California, which is due to open in the second half of 2022.
According to Walmart, under the deal, Plenty's Compton farm will send leafy greens to its California stores beginning later this year, noting that vertical farms will supplement, but will not replace, traditional farming, while helping to sustainably increase food supplies.