Plenty is Revolutionizing Agriculture and the Modern Employee Experience

Plenty is rewriting the rules of agriculture through its technology platform that can grow fresh produce almost anywhere in the world.

By growing vertically in controlled indoor farms, Plenty is able to deliver fresh produce with peak-season flavor year-round, using a fraction of the land and water required by traditional outdoor farming. Plenty’s proprietary approach is designed to preserve the world’s natural resources, make fresh produce available to all communities, and create resilience in our food systems against weather, location, pests, and climate impacts.

Changing the way we think about food and farming isn’t a simple proposition. It takes a massive, coordinated effort from a team of brilliant, dedicated collaborators with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds. As Plenty continues to scale its business, keeping its team aligned across myriad functional roles and miles of open country remains a core objective.

We met up with Chris Michael, Plenty’s Internal Communications Director, to learn what it takes to build a digital employee experience that fosters that alignment, and functions equally well for employees working in a farm or an office.

Developing a New World of Abundance, Together

When asked what keeps him and so many other talented teammates at Plenty, Michael was quick to share a handful of things:

“I was already very interested in business and startups. At Plenty, that fascination overlaps with sustainability, ensuring we have a planet to live on in the future, and understanding the impact that agriculture has on that planet, for good or otherwise. Plenty is developing a new world of abundance that solves for quality, not just quantity of food. 

Plenty is especially exciting for me, because I want to see people thrive—whether that’s here at the company, or outside in the world—and live a life where they have the energy to do the things they want to do. Getting to help build that infrastructure is one of the most exciting things about working with Plenty.”

And while Plenty is fundamentally changing the way we think about producing healthy food, Michael brought the concept right back down to earth.

“Agriculture is one of humanity’s oldest industries; however, it’s often overlooked in terms of investments in time, attention, and technology. We’re not doing anything inherently foreign here. We’re growing plants—just with what we believe is the next generation of  modern tools.”

Seeking & Amplifying Diverse Perspectives

Thriving in the intersection between ancient and cutting-edge technology means bringing a lot of creative ideas to the table, and executing on them reliably. As Michael explained, that kind of effort benefits from a diverse set of skills and minds.

“Integrating biology with mechanical engineering systems and software requires a lot of different types of people from different backgrounds working together as a team. No one person could do this themselves, and that’s been our founders’ mantra from the very beginning.”

Attracting, engaging, and retaining a diverse group of talented employees is a challenge for any organization. Supporting alignment, hiring for cultural contribution, and maintaining an open and thoughtful consideration of ideas helps strengthen the team from the inside out.

“The last seven years or so have been about finding people with the right experience who want to contribute together toward the same work and goals,” Michael explained. “In everything from our hiring practices to how we think about building and nurturing organizational culture, we’re constantly working to help people elevate the unique and diverse experiences they’ve had in life that support our shared mission, as they work hand-in-hand with their teammates.

Those diverse perspectives and experiences are not only essential for the Plenty team at an organizational level, but also critical to success as an organization working to reframe agriculture on a global scale. 

“Breakthroughs happen when people have something unique to show or say or see, and they feel empowered to do so,” Michael said. “That’s why we’ve been working to build our cultural foundation on our values, which inherently make space for a wide range of voices and perspectives.”

Supporting a wide range of voices and perspectives isn’t only important for strategic and technological progress—it’s also core to Plenty’s ability to translate its vision to partners and consumers.

“The target market we’re working to serve is really global, so we need to have a brand and products that stand out and appeal to a diverse audience. Representing that internally as well as externally is essential, and something we’re always working towards.”

Inside Plenty: A Unifying Digital Experience

In order to give those collaborative efforts, voices, and perspectives a centralized and easily accessible home, Michael and the Plenty team set out to build “Inside Plenty.” This new home would be a source of information, resources, communication, and connection for colleagues across the organization. After a comprehensive evaluation process, the team settled on Haystack as a platform to build it on.

As part of an organization whose footprint was consistently growing, Michael and his team determined they needed a more centralized, scalable way to communicate. They required the ability to do the complex coordination dance of scaling up multiple locations with multiple audiences, and to be able to do that in a decentralized way.

“A sophisticated but simple content management system was key,” he began. “That was the Achilles heel of many of the systems we evaluated. The last thing some of these systems are is simple, and that’s a massive turn-off. 

I might overcome that obstacle—I’m very motivated to, because it’s my role.  However, my goal is to ensure our communication systems are accessible and useful to everyone across the company and we won’t see the adoption we’re looking for if our system is not simple or intuitive.

We needed something approachable to everyone on our team, not just the experts in communication.”

As Michael shared, scalability is multifaceted. For his team, scalability also meant “working well with the other tools we already have, like email and Slack, and also working well for our teammates who are primarily on mobile devices because of their role, travel, commuting, and so on.”

Plenty Authentic

To maintain a cohesive experience across functions, roles, and locations, Michael and his team worked diligently to find a solution that would deliver an experience that felt authentically “Plenty,” no matter where an employee’s work took them.

“It really comes down to alignment, and brand authenticity starts from the inside out. We want our internal brand to mirror our external brand. Our outward brand should also reflect how we act, what we say and do, and how we operate internally. 

This is also true for our visual identity. Our marketing and commercial teams have done an enormous amount of great work, especially over the last five years, to figure out what fits best. The crossover between all those things brings our brand to life in an authentic way. Our team values come out externally in our work.”

Plenty’s core values are intentionally focused, yet inclusive, making them easy to apply to any type of work. Michael shared those values, and the context that connects them to their shared goals.

Find a Way

“Like all agriculture innovators, we make progress through grit and determination, but also heaps of creativity and adaptability. We want this ethic to show up in how we talk about our progress and the work we get to highlight through our communications.”

Down to Earth

“At the end of the day, we’re building farms to feed people, which meets a very universal need, even if we are doing it in new ways. The Down to Earth ethic is about acknowledging that we don’t know what we don’t know, being humble enough to hear hard truths as we go, and realizing that curiosity is a superpower, especially when moving fast alongside a lot of people who might think differently than we do. We like to say “We aren’t afraid of rolling up our sleeves but we’re also not too proud to laugh at ourselves.” This type of leadership has been modeled from day one at Plenty and it’s important to me that our internal communications continue to find the right balance of steadfast mission focus while honoring the people we serve, both inside and outside our company.

Grow Together

“Growing Together is all about investing in working relationships, continuous learning, and effective communication- all of which are consistently challenged by the fast pace at which we operate. Whether it’s our quarterly All-Hands meetings or our weekly content calendar, we want our communication platforms to help connect the dots across Plenty about who we are, where we’re going, and how we’re doing. We try to share helpful context that drives more aligned decision-making and ultimately greater progress towards our shared goals.

As they continued narrowing the field of potential platform partners, Michael and his team maintained focus on their goal of building an “Inside Plenty” that radiated authenticity, both in its visual and cultural aspects. 

As he explained further, the team “needed something customizable that matched our aesthetic off the bat.” Haystack offered the team easy ways to further enhance that customization, with features that stood out, like “putting our logo in the mobile app, or having our own branded logo for Inside Plenty.”

While delivering an engaging, authentically branded experience might seem like icing on the cake, Michael explained why this factor was essential to their goals for the platform.

“Using our external brand, tailored for an internal audience provides a sense of exclusivity, while staying true to the aesthetic that we’ve built. Ensuring our internal digital environment looks, feels, and operates like our external landscape helps create a grounded and stable employee experience. Keeping the same clean, but playful branded experience in our internal platforms is something we can do really easily with Haystack. Out of all the options we evaluated, it was the cleanest, which is already part of our brand. I really didn't want to subject our people to the rigid and cluttered look and feel of an old-school intranet. 

We also tried to find something that was easy to use. By that, I mean easy for our people to pick up and use on day one without friction, but also easy to operate as an admin, to ensure we could accomplish things quickly. We didn’t want to be relearning or retraining every time.“

While all of these features were important factors in the team’s evaluation process, they also needed a solution that would meet their shared goal of resource stewardship.

“We needed to find something that demonstrated a good return on the investment we were making—that the dollars we spent here would result in a ton of value,” Michael said. “Long-term, we also wanted a platform that would grow with us through consistent upgrades and new releases.”

A Warm Reception

In 2023, Michael and team implemented Inside Plenty company-wide. “We had great adoption rates,” he shared. "The leadership team pretty much immediately understood the value and got behind it. They were seeing a consistent drumbeat of quality content coming out of the platform, with a lot of diversity of post formats, while feeling very cohesive.”

“At the team level, there was a little hesitation at first—we have a lot of digital tools because of the wide range of functions across the organization. But that faded as people realized we could roll so many different communication touchpoints into one platform.”

Since the rollout, Michael and a community of stakeholders and community authors maintained a steadfast perspective for Inside Plenty:

“How do we, as communicators and leaders of the organization, help people understand the impact of their work and see those outcomes every day?”

Diverse Communication Channels

Illuminating impact is a layered effort that leverages a multitude of tools and strategies. “We’re heavily focused on multi-channel communication,” Michael said. 

“We make sure our people find out big announcements from the company first, which requires us to cultivate a high-trust, high-transparency culture, where we can share information that might not be ready for larger audiences yet.

Starting from the very highest level, we rally around live quarterly meetings where we’ll discuss things like our organizational strategy, progress, our place in the industry, and how things are going as we pursue our strategic and culture-building objectives. Those, in turn, go out as intranet and email notifications with helpful timestamps and key takeaways for those who couldn’t join live.

We also cover more detailed topics like deployment progress reports on new and future farms.

For example, right now we’re building a new farm in Virginia. The team on the ground just published a post today with a photo essay and highlights showing the major progress we’re making.

It used to be that we could simply walk out of the office into the warehouse to see that progress, but now you’d have to fly across the continent to see it in person.”

Distributing that content to employees across different roles and ways of working, and to multiple sites spanning thousands of miles would normally be daunting. With dedicated tools, it becomes seamless.

“Using a centralized content delivery system like Haystack that can distribute information via email, Slack, and push notifications on mobile devices is a big force multiplier,” Michael said.

Boosting Efficiency

It may come as no surprise that members of an organization dedicated to growing and delivering food more efficiently strive to bring that same focus to other aspects of their work—especially as their operation expands.

“Efficient communication is becoming more and more important every day as we grow from a startup to a scaling organization. Every minute counts.”

While being able to send messages quickly and easily across multiple channels is one element of communication efficiency, as Michael shared, there are other equally important components.

“A big part of our Down to Earth core value centers around stewardship—not only of the resources we’re using in our farms and offices, but also the time we have in a given day, and the attention people have. 

Our goal is to be good stewards of Team Plenty’s time and attention by ensuring that every post we publish  is valuable to our target audience(s) and that our teammates  get a fair return on their time investment by viewing it.”

For Plenty, communication efficiency also takes shape in the form of reduced bottlenecks, and greater bandwidth through decentralization. 

“When it comes to creating posts, I’m a team of one as an internal communicator; however, over the past six months, we’ve worked to build our author community: The Inside Plenty Insiders. It’s a mix of representatives from different beats across the organization. 

Members of our External Communications and PR team might share something about a recent award win or a magazine feature story. Members of our People Operations team might share updates on growth and development programs, benefits, or survey announcements. Office Managers or local People & Culture Partners might share additional updates throughout the week and month specific to their location.

We’re continuing to focus on leader communication as well, enabling them to share consistent messaging, provide the right context, and encourage conversations to happen across the company. 

As we focus on scaling, we’re focused on building more stable and scalable foundations, and that’s reflected in our internal communications as well. Thanks to Haystack,  we now have a much more decentralized yet governed approach that empowers key communicators to broadcast messages autonomously while maintaining a consistent Plenty feel”

Michael also outlined how efficiency can manifest itself as shared language, understanding, and context. 

“Like many companies, we have our own unique language. Even if you’re joining Team Plenty with decades of engineering experience, you’re very likely going to encounter new terms or acronyms you may not be familiar with from the world of plant science or farm operations. 

It’s so nice to be able to embed terms and acronyms directly into posts for our team members to hover over and quickly get a definition or some helpful context about how we use it at Plenty.

With employees working in a wide range of locations and roles—some in offices, some in facilities, and some in transit, efficient communication can also take the form of convenience and moments of discovery.

“We often use targeted digital signage across our locations to keep everyone up to date,” Michael shared. “Adding QR codes to the screens is another useful way to get people the info they need quickly.. We can take a post excerpt from Haystack, create some digital signage with a QR code that leads back to the full post in the app. That way people can just scan and go as they pass through a conference room or one of the breakrooms. It helps a lot to get people involved.”

When employees need to find crucial information, integrated search functionality and suggested results make it quick and easy, even on the go. 

“Searchability, and being able to find things, especially with all the information we have, is key,” Michael said.

The Plenty team continues to find new paths toward efficiency in the form of an overarching communication strategy as well. 

“We’ve become a lot more efficient and effective in the way we approach high-level communication. It’s one thing to have tools, and another thing entirely to use them to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. We’ve been able to focus on our editorial calendar and content planning, so we can look out several months, while maintaining the flexibility we need as a dynamic organization to modify our plans in any given week.

The core of that communication planning—the people involved are aware of what’s happening, what they’re responsible for communicating, what channels comms will go out on—all of that has made coordinating everything much easier. We expect that to continue to produce returns over time.”

Standout Features

A close-knit community, members of the Plenty team appreciate the opportunity to connect with one another—especially with new members.

“We’re constantly working to welcome new people who have joined the team,” Michael shared. “Not just ‘hey this person is here now,’ but really connecting their personal sense of purpose with Plenty’s shared purpose. Being able to see a list of new hires and click through to learn more about them and why they joined the company is really helpful to maintain our Grow Together culture.”

Shoutouts also surfaced as a frequently used feature for its ability to show appreciation for the myriad contributions each team member makes, but also to connect those contributions to the bigger picture. 

“We have a strong peer-to-peer recognition culture, so we were already doing this in Slack,” Michael said. “But having a tool that expands beyond a simple text-based message, where you can not only tag people but add images and tag one of our values as well, helps to keep that sense of recognition going.

While Haystack provides a stable and reliable platform on which to build Inside Plenty, Michael and the Plenty team appreciate the level of support they receive when they need it.

“The support is very personal, yet agile, in contrast to some of the other platforms we evaluated. You can reach out to someone directly with an issue or question and get a response almost immediately.”

Growing together

As Michael and his informal team of Insiders continue to build and expand on Inside Plenty, the possibilities and applications for the platform only continue to grow. 

“It seems like the more we use the platform, the more people are digging in and unlocking ideas about ways they might want to use it. It’s creating a communication snowball effect, where the more reliable and effective the platform is, the more impact it’s creating, which then encourages more communicators to engage with it.”

Pro Tips

As a member of a team that continues to deliver a truly extraordinary digital employee experience, we asked Michael to share any tips he might have for others working to accomplish the same thing.

  • Get very clear about who you’re serving with the platform. It’s not always the people who are just receiving information, it’s also the people working to deliver it.
  • Gathering a diverse mix of stakeholders as part of a technology discovery and demo team can be really helpful. For example, a mobile-first user might tell you “I could never see myself using this at a farm.” Those types of insights go a long way to picking the right platform the first time.
  • Get the right people on board with the vision of where you’re trying to go, especially with something that hasn’t existed at the company before. Share the understanding of what this could be, and enlist their help in molding the process through their perspective and advice. This includes the decision about which platform to go with but also how best to roll it out.
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