SoftBank leads $200m investment in indoor farm start-up

San Francisco-based Plenty has raised $200m from Japan’s SoftBank Group and other high-profile investors in what it calls ‘the largest agriculture technology investment in history’.

Plenty, a vertically-integrated indoor farm start-up based in San Francisco, has secured $200 million in Series B funding from a number of blue-chip investors that it will use to expand globally.

The fundraising, which Plenty describes as “the largest agriculture technology investment in history,” was led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, a vehicle launched in October 2016 by the SoftBank Group, a Japanese telecoms and internet company, in collaboration with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Other investors backing Plenty in this latest round of funding include Moore Capital Management founder Louis Bacon, as well as existing investors Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Bezos Expeditions, DCM, Data Collective and Finistere, the San Francisco company said in a statement.

The investment will enable Plenty to create a large-scale indoor farm network near the world’s major population centers to produce fruits and vegetables that are affordable, GMO- and pesticide-free while reducing water consumption by 99 percent.

According to the statement, the company is able to do this by using proven plant science and patented technologies, such as cutting-edge LED lighting, micro-sensor technology and big data processing. Last month, it acquired Bright Agrotech, a manufacturer of vertical farming production system technology, for an undisclosed amount.

“By combining technology with optimal agriculture methods, Plenty is working to make ultra-fresh, nutrient-rich food accessible to everyone in an always-local way that minimizes wastage from transport,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank Group.

The Japanese company launched the SoftBank Vision Fund in order to invest in the technology sector globally. According to a statement released at the time, the company expects to invest at least $25 billion over the next five years, while the vehicle’s final target could reach $100 billion.

Less than a year since its launch, the SoftBank Vision Fund reached a first close of over $93 billion in May, while final close is expected by year-end. According to SoftBank, investors in the fund include United Arab Emirates’ Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Foxconn Technology Group, Qualcomm and Sharp.