Laramie lands SLIB grant for new vertical research center
WYOMING – Gov. Mark Gordon announced a historic economic development investment last week, as the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) approved a grant to support development of the world’s largest and most advanced vertical farming research center in Laramie.
The project will support the retention and creation of nearly 200 high-paying jobs in the community.
The company, Plenty Unlimited Inc., is dedicated to advancing the emerging technology field of indoor agriculture. The new research center in Laramie expects to utilize an internship-to-employment pipeline to hire local workers, as well as hire recent University of Wyoming graduates. The investment by the Wyoming Business Council supports the new direction of the council, by adding value to Wyoming’s core industries and activating new economic sectors.
“Wyoming is proud to invest in the continued success of a business that was first innovated here in Wyoming by one of our own and demonstrated at the 2015 World Expo,” said Gov. Gordon. “The level at which Plenty will be operating in this new facility will truly advance Wyoming’s preeminence as a global center of indoor agricultural research. This center gives us a tremendous opportunity to promote a state-of-the-art R&D cluster and further diversify our state’s economy.”
The $20-million Business Ready Community Business Committed grant from the Wyoming Business Council to the City of Laramie will be applied to construction and infrastructure costs for the 60,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on 16 acres at the Cirrus Sky Technology Park in Laramie. Additional funding, land and support for the project is being provided by the City of Laramie and the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance (LCBA).
Plenty has its origins in Laramie. Chief science officer Dr. Nate Storey cofounded Bright Agrotech as a University of Wyoming graduate student in 2010 and established an innovation center in Laramie.
This eventually led Storey and a group of entrepreneurs to found the startup Plenty Unlimited in 2014, which later bought Bright Agrotech. Today, Plenty has more than 400 employees nationwide and the company’s R&D work over the past two years drove more than 100 new patent filings for innovations as diverse as new crop growing systems, a way to detect plant stress and new tomato plant varieties.
“As a Wyoming native, I have devoted my career to advancing plant science in my home state and am proud to be a part of helping the state play a leading role in advancing a new field,” said Storey. “This state-of-the-art facility will not only accelerate our R&D pipeline but will also create an incredible opportunity to attract and employ a talented workforce to further innovation and diversification for Wyoming.”
With the SLIB’s approval, the project will shift into the design phase, with plans to begin construction later this year and open the facility in early 2025. Plenty’s team and research work will transfer to the new facility from its current Laramie location once it is completed.