Local officials attend opening of innovative vertical farm

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — Walmart made good on its promise to invest in vertical farming technology with the opening of the Plenty Compton Farm May 18.

Plenty specializes in vertical farming, which produces pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.

“Plenty is an indoor growing company so we grow plants inside without the sun in controlled environments,” said Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai. “We are producing leafy greens and we also produce tomatoes, and in the future, we’ll be producing strawberries and other fruit and produce.”

Kukutai said after investing nearly a decade into research and development, Plenty has cracked the code on a scalable platform for farming.

“With Plenty’s first commercial farm we’re proving that our uniquely vertical indoor farms can deliver a reliable, year-round supply of fresh produce with positive unit economics,” Kukutai said.

Plenty believes this is the first step in putting indoor grown produce on a path to becoming a meaningful part of the global food supply.

“We’re honored to be taking that step in our home state of California with the community of Compton,” Kukutai said.

The Walmart-backed vertical farming platform is built across a single city block, with the platform designed to produce 4.5 million pounds of leafy greens annually — a yield of up to 350 times that of conventional farms.

“The Plenty Compton Farm is bringing field-scale farming back to Compton and introducing a new generation of our community to careers in agriculture. More than 30% of the farm’s hires come from Compton,” Mayor Emma Sharif said. “Plenty’s farm is a model for how we can increase access to fresh, locally grown food for urban populations, while supporting cities economic development.”

The Plenty Farm pays homage to Compton’s deep roots in agriculture with murals inside the farm that depicts a timeline of the evolution of farming in the city dating back to 1897 when the first sugar beet field was tilled at Rozelle Ranch.

The ranch was also home to Vertical Alfalfa Baling.

The Plenty farm is located in Council District 2 which is represented by Councilman Andre Spicer, who shared the mayor’s enthusiasm for the newest business to open in the city.

“This is amazing for the community in a place where we have a food desert,” Spicer said. “To have a company here that is producing the produce, that is non-GMO, and no pesticides means our community is going to get fresh produce.”

Dignitaries and their representatives came from across the state to attend the opening, tour the facility and sample food offerings featuring Plenty’s products.

The Compton Vegan prepared a sweet potato cornbread muffin with the Plenty baby kale, a sausage, cheese and Plenty curly baby spinach breakfast sandwich, and Chick’n & Waffle with strawberry and Plenty baby kale jelly and guests sampled smoothies made from spinach and kale.

The tour provided an up close view of the farming process that starts with the seeding through the cycle of growing and it being transferred into the packaging which is then shipped directly to the stores.

The farming platform will supply the Walmart Compton store along with Bristol Farms, Whole Foods and other local grocers. The produce also will be used on Singapore Airline flights out of Los Angeles International Airport.

The Plenty Compton Farm will initially grow four varieties of leafy, pesticide-free greens — baby arugula, baby kale, crispy lettuce, and curly baby spinach.

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at emiliesaintjohn@gmail.com.

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