The next step in approving a $20 million business commitment grant for a 60,000-square-foot research and development center for vertical farming company Plenty Unlimited will be at the February meeting of the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board.
The project was detailed to the Wyoming Business Council board of directors at their Sept. 8 meeting in Rock Springs. The board unanimously approved the grant request by the city of Laramie for the Plenty center to be built on the 16.35-acre Cirrus Sky Technology Park, which is owned by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.
Wyoming’s five top elected officials – governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction – make up the SLIB, which must give final approval to such WBC grants. However, with the secretary of state and education superintendent’s offices being filled by temporary appointments, it was decided to wait for formal action when the newly elected officers are in place.
It’s estimated that the Plenty R&D center will add up to 120 new jobs. This is in addition to the current 82 employees at the Plenty facility, which is located in the Laramie River Business Park.
The company’s roots in Laramie began with Nate Storey, who co-founded Bright Agrotech as a University of Wyoming graduate student in 2009. Bright Agrotech started as a client of the Wyoming Technology Business Center (now called IMPACT 307), the university’s business incubator, which assists Wyoming entrepreneurs.
As UW students, Storey and partner Paul Bennick entered their concept of a sustainable agricultural business using indoor, vertical farms into the 2011 UW College of Business $10K (now $50K) Entrepreneurship Competition. They received $12,500 to help start their company, and one year of free business counseling services and space at the WTBC.
Bright Agrotech emerged from UW’s business incubator in 2015 and established an indoor farm in Laramie. It quickly grew its customer base and caught the attention of entrepreneurs in California. Storey met with them and founded the Silicon Valley startup, Plenty Unlimited. It bought Bright Agrotech in 2017.
Plenty is a leader in a new industry striving to gain adoption of its ability to supply produce year-round using relatively small amounts of water and land, and without pesticides.
Wyoming Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell said more information about the impact of the Plenty expansion in Laramie will be made available for the February meeting of the SLIB.
To learn more about the project, view a recording the Sept. 8 WBC board meeting on its YouTube channel at YouTube.com/user/wyobizcouncil.