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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founders: Nate Storey of Plenty

Nate Storey founder of Plenty

Feeding a growing population with less arable land is a complex problem, but Plenty founders Jack Oslan, Matt Barnard, and Nate Storey pledge to be part of the solution.

With their innovative technology, Plenty’s vertical farms yield up to 350 times per acre vs. conventional farms. To put it another way, they grow enough produce to fill a soccer field from the footprint of a single goal!

Recently, we caught up with Nate to learn more about his mission and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

Plenty salad next to a wood board with shrimp tacos

01 Why did you start Plenty?

There were two main drivers. Plenty was a continuation of a personal quest to figure out how to grow more good food in a world that is running out of arable land. Meanwhile, we have an exponentially growing population that needs and deserves fresh, healthy food. I felt the technology I was working on could not only help to feed a lot of people, but to also extend lives, weather environmental destabilization, and give land back to the natural landscape.

I also felt like producing food was a good and honest pursuit. I was frustrated by how complex and abstract the food system felt. I wanted others to have that relationship with their food, and wondered if Plenty was a way to accomplish that. All food is local to someone. I wondered, could we make it local to everyone? These were both exciting and inspiring pursuits that made starting Plenty with my co-founders Matt and Jack incredibly exciting.

02 What obstacles did you face along the way?

First, we had to figure out how to grow. This meant going back to first principles, deciding what agricultural rules we wanted to follow — and which to break — to build a business with technical staying power. Then we had to find visionary investors who were willing to take a bet on a business that requires lots of research, development, and big, expensive farms. We also had to overcome millions (quite literally) of technical hurdles and design questions. Along the way, we had to find talented individuals who were excited about joining a company that was completely rewriting the rules of agriculture and could think creatively to do something completely new and do it right.

We’re still figuring it out and taking on new, more challenging questions every day. But, we’ve also discovered that all obstacles are temporary. As long as the laws of physics aren’t working against you, everything else is solvable.

boxes of Plenty salad mixes

03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

That’s a tough one, because everyone’s journey is different, and every problem and approach is unique. But I’ve learned three solid truths. First, understanding the fundamentals of any problem and working your way to a solution from the root of the problem has a much higher probability of getting you to the right outcome than trying to copy what someone else did. Second, cleverness is not a substitute for perseverance. And, third, you have to believe in what you’re doing — and the people around you have to believe in it, too.

04 What’s on the horizon for Plenty?

We’re in the midst of launching the world’s most advanced indoor vertical farm in Compton, California, which represents the future of our industry. It’s been an incredibly challenging project and there is always more work to do, but it’s a huge accomplishment for the team. Now, we’re able to serve many more customers across California and beyond as we prove out what our technology can do.

Once we’re fully ramped in Compton, we’ll be starting our next series of farms, launching totally new products like strawberries and tomatoes in addition to our greens. I’m so excited for the world to taste these new products. If you think you don’t like leafy greens, it might only be because you haven’t tried our leafy greens! Plus, what you’re tasting is the future of food, which is pretty cool!

a bowl of salad with a side plate of sqaush

05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

I think work/life balance is a bit of a myth if you’re trying to build a big, unprecedented thing. Some problems allow balance, others do not. Some problems can be solved at home, while some require you to march into the wilderness for months at a time. Obsession around technical problems is often something that spills over into personal time regardless of the balance you try to strike. You think about it and dream about it — it’s part of who you are.

I’m lucky to have a supportive partner who is able to help me strike that balance — I’m able to have a family and still pursue this massive undertaking. I’ve realized as I get older that most of what I do outside of work is still tied to food and the gathering or raising of food. The world has evolved but I am still a hunter-gatherer.

Farms Meet the Founder Sustainable Vegetable