CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)- Virginia will soon be home to the world’s largest indoor vertical farming campus, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced on Wednesday.
The California-based Plenty Unlimited Inc. plans to invest $300 million in Chesterfield County, creating more than 300 full-time jobs.
Youngkin celebrated the announcement on Wednesday morning at Meadowville Technology Park, where the facility will be built.
Plenty will construct 30-foot towers, which will grow peak-season produce year-round by using technology to simulate the perfect spring day.
The campus will be developed in multiple phases over the next six years but the first farm on site, a dedicated Driscoll’s berry farm, is expected to be complete by winter 2023-2024. The farm will focus on strawberries at first, then expand to other produce.
“I think it clearly places Virginia at the forefront of this next generation AgTech industry that is experiencing a meteoric acceleration,” Youngkin said.
Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai said their system is better for the environment and more efficient than traditional farming.
“This farm will be able to produce 20 million pounds, which is about 350 times on a per-acre basis the amount of produce that is being grown on a single acre,” Kukutai said.
Kukutai said they chose the Chesterfield site because it’s a day’s drive from 100 million customers. He said growing crops closer to shoppers will result in fresher and more flavorful produce. That proximity can also help mitigate supply chain disruptions to better meet demand.
Kukutai said the movement towards indoor farming will also provide stability as a changing climate creates uncertainty for the food supply.
“So it doesn’t just impact Central Virginia but I think it impacts the world,” Youngkin said. “We’re building the supply chains, the workforce, the leading companies, the best customers.”
Kukutai said Virginia is well-positioned to capitalize on future investments from this growing industry.
“One of the reasons for selecting this campus and the scale of it is the ability to build this next farm and then move rapidly to build the next one,” Kukutai said. “We think this is going to be a great location, not just for us, but I’m sure we are going to see other players come into Virginia.”