Jul 20, 2017

Vertical farming startup raises $200 million from SoftBank, Bezos

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Plenty, a South San Francisco-based indoor vertical farming startup, has raised $200 million in Series B funding at what Axios has learned is a pre-money valuation north of $300 million. SoftBank Vision Fund led the round, and was joined by Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors, Jeff Bezos' Bezos Expeditions, Kirenaga Partners, DCM, Data Collective and Finistere Ventures.

  • Bigger than it seems: This is basically a shock-and-awe sort of transaction, aimed squarely at rival vertical farming upstarts like Bowery and Freight Farms. A source says that the deal includes pre-commitments for a subsequent round on top of the $200 million — both from participants and some who couldn't get Series B allocations — which would include hundreds of millions of "non-dilutive global expansion capital."
  • Record harvest: This appears to be the largest-ever VC financing for an agricultural tech company.
  • Bottom line: "[SoftBank's Masa] Son is particularly interested in how Plenty can help nations grow sufficient food to support the population. His Vision Fund backers include sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East, where drought, population growth and a lack of arable land are fueling concerns about food shortages and political instability." — Selina Wang, Bloomberg

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Japan to close schools through late March to control coronavirus outbreak

A couple takes photos in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that the government will ask elementary, middle and high schools around the country to close until late March as an attempt to contain its novel coronavirus outbreak, AP reports.

Why it matters: The government's decision — impacting 12.8 million students across 34,847 schools — comes as concerns mount about the spread of the virus in Japan, which has 189 confirmed cases and hundreds more abroad the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeper: The latest coronavirus updates

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

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Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health