According to Nate Storey, the future of farms is vertical. It’s also indoors, can be placed anywhere on the planet, is heavily integrated with robots and AI, and produces better fruits and vegetables while using 95% less water and 99% less land. But the future of farms is also personal, emotional, and deeply meaningful.“The objective of all technology really should be to enable human joy, right?” Storey asked me on the recent episode of the TechFirst podcast. “For me, it’s the memory of being a child in the garden and eating a carrot that my grandfather gave me that still has the grit on it, and the snap and the crunch and the flavor and the aroma, or a tomato from my grandmother’s garden.”Plenty is an agtech startup in San Francisco that is reinventing farms and farming. Storey is the co-founder and chief science officer in a time when farming is going high-tech. Despite getting a bad rep in much of popular culture over the last few decades for lack of education, farmers have always been stealthily technical, fixing tractors, constructing buildings, and innovating new tools to making farming better or easier. Recently drones and robots are invading the world of “flat farming,” as Storey calls it, and the space is legitimately hot, with over 1,600 startups and tens of billions of dollars of investment. Plenty is one of those startups, but it’s taking a novel path. Necessity, as per usual, is the mother of invention.“The reality is, there are five places in the world where you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables really economically, and all of that land is used up at this point,” Storey says. “Vertical farming exists because we want to grow the world’s capacity for fresh fruits and vegetables, and we know it’s necessary.”Americans are only eating half of the fresh fruit and veggies they should be, and globally it’s even worse: an average of 30%. In richer nations that lack of a healthy diet means increased levels of obesity, diabetes, and other health concerns; in poorer nations there may not be enough food of any kind to go around. Plus, some nations with limited land or poor growing conditions such as deserts face existential risks when they can’t control their own food supply.“If you are a nation in this world that has limited food security, you have to import everything, the value of your food is quite different than it is here in the United States,” Storey says. “Which means that what you’re willing to pay for it is quite different. And what you’re willing to pay for that independence and that control is quite different.”In fact, one of the lessons Covid-19 has taught us is the fragility of the interconnected global economy. Listen to the interview behind this story on the TechFirst podcast:So Plenty takes the flat farm and performs an Inception transformation on it: ripping up horizontal rows of plants and hanging them vertically from the ceilings. Sunlight from above is replaced by full-spectrum LED lights from all sides.

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This 2 Acre Vertical Farm Out Produces 750 Acre ‘Flat Farms’

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