Friday, March 29, 2019

Former Twitter CFO Joins SoftBank-Backed Farming Startup Plenty

From Bloomberg:
  • Mike Gupta will help company as it expands internationally
  • An IPO pro, Gupta led market debuts for Twitter and Zynga
Twitter Inc.’s former chief financial officer has joined Plenty Inc. in that role as the indoor farming startup prepares for international expansion and improvements to its vertical growing technology.
Mike Gupta helped take Twitter public in 2013 and left for Docker Inc. two years later. Earlier, Gupta was treasurer at gaming company Zynga Inc., helping to lead its initial public offering, and had previously spent about eight years in various roles at Yahoo.

“It’s not new for me to be in hypergrowth companies that are entering unchartered territory," Gupta said in an interview. "This is a very capital intensive business so having someone who can think about how we raise and deploy capital in the long run will be very important.”
SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Plenty has made several high profile hires in recent years, including Tesla Inc.’s former battery directory Kurt Kelty and the electric carmaker’s former vice president of engineering, Nick Kalayjian.

Founded in 2014, Plenty boasts it can yield more produce in a given area than conventional farms, with only a fraction of the water. Its backers include funds that invest on behalf of Eric Schmidt, a director of Alphabet Inc., and Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Inc. Plenty is betting that with its technology and a previous $200 million investment from SoftBank, it will be able to scale its farms around the world.

The startup is in the process of building a new version of its farms, called Tigris. Matt Barnard, a co-founder and chief executive officer of Plenty, said that the new farm will be able to produce more than 40 times the amount of leafy greens that its current farms can grow, while using less energy. Plenty aims to roll out Tigris later this year....MORE
March 8
K@W: "Why Venture Capital Likes Modular Farming"
December 2018
Citi: "How Innovation and Shifting Consumer Preferences Can Help Feed a Growing Planet"
A few notes up front.
1) You have to read past the buzzwords and buzz concepts. There is a lot of good information here but also a lot of hand-waving.

2) The situation is not yet dire. On the other hand, should the world experience two consecutive years of crop failures in any combination of the breadbaskets: northern China, American Midwest, Ukraine/western Russia then there is serious risk of famine.

3) This topic seems to bring out everyone's inner totalitarian and getting past that will be required if there is going to be agreement rather than insurrection.

4) Keep in mind this report was put together by a bank with something to sell. It might be loans, it might be green cred, it might be consulting services, it might be anticipating regulatory actions, it might be propaganda.
Take from it the ideas and data that support your priors and be open to the ideas which which don't.
December 2018
GV, Google’s Venture Capital Arm, Leads $90 Million Round For Indoor Farming Startup, Bowery
July 2018 
Is Vertical Farming Really the Future of Agriculture?
Jan. 2018
Bezos/SoftBank-Backed Indoor Farming Powerhouse Plenty Planning for 300 Farms in China
October 2017
Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup—UPDATED
December 2017
"This Is Why Jeff Bezos Is Spending Millions on an Indoor Farming Startup"

The competition:
December 2017
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Europe’s Huge New Vertical Farm
December 2015
AeroFarms Raises $20 Million for High-Tech Urban Agriculture
The Other Musk: Overthrow Big Agriculture?