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SVP, Engineering



Chester, VA, USA
Posted on Sunday, July 9, 2023

About Plenty

We are on a mission to grow plenty of fresh food for everyone, everywhere. We are building the world’s largest, most technologically advanced, indoor vertical farms. Using a fraction of the land and water outdoor farms need, our farms are designed to secure our food future.

Our people and teams are how we make our mission possible. We are passionate about our contributions to Plenty, the communities around us and our planet, but never take ourselves too seriously. We’re down to earth, we grow together, and we always find a way.

Are you passionate about sustainable agriculture and eager to revolutionize the way we grow food? Join our cutting-edge team as the Senior Vice President of Engineering; a team that is dedicated to transforming agriculture by harnessing technology, innovation, and sustainability.

About the role

As the Senior Vice President, Engineering, you will build, lead and inspire the Engineering organization (8 different sub teams: Farm Architecture, System Integration Engineering, Research Engineers, Hardware and Device Development and Scaling, Automation and Controls, Utilities and Infrastructure SMEs (HVAC, Nutrient systems, etc.) that is responsible for planning, designing, manufacturing, building, and evolving the Plenty indoor farming platform. You will do this in collaboration with other teams such as Farm Deployment and Product Management to ensure that the design is properly and effectively implemented according to design objectives.

The Engineering team defines, designs and scales the technology used in our state of the art, indoor vertical farms. The Engineering team collaborates closely with cross-functional teams, including Operations, Plant Science, and Product to ensure appropriate and seamless integration of engineering solutions to operate and evolve farm design and drive towards improved efficiency, cost, and performance. Our indoor farming platform will need to be compatible with and enable the launch of multiple crop types as we continue to scale. Increasingly this role is responsible for managing 3rd party resources as a force multiplier to internal subject matter experts.

Currently, our farms are being deployed in the U.S. and will soon be deployed internationally. Design for international markets and compliance is experience that will increasingly become important as the company scales over the next 5 years.

What you'll do

  1. Strategic Leadership
    • Provide strategic direction and vision for the engineering division to support the overall business objectives and growth plans.
    • Ensure engineering leaders provide input to innovation business cases and techno-economic models based on engineering development scope, cost, and schedule to deliver expected value.
    • Drive innovation by identifying and evaluating new technologies, methodologies, and best practices in indoor vertical farming, automation, and system optimization.
    • Collaborate with the executive team to develop and execute the company’s long-term engineering roadmap.
    • Help to evolve in-source/outsource strategy to find more capital and management efficient ways to design and deploy farms.
  2. Engineering Management
    • Lead and inspire a multidisciplinary team of engineers, including mechanical, electrical, and automation subject matter experts.
    • Develop a network of 3rd party engineering and design partners to accelerate the development and scaling of our unique technology, by managing performance driven contracts, timelines, and cost.
    • Foster a culture of accountability, continuous improvement, creativity, and collaboration within the engineering department as well as with cross-functional teams.
    • Establish and maintain engineering standards, protocols, and documentation to ensure efficient workflows and high-quality outcomes.
    • Author Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and KPIs that are effective for driving transparency, accountability, and clarity throughout the organization regarding engineering outcomes, from the strategic to the tactical.
  3. System Design and Development
    • Oversee the design and implementation of cutting edge-systems and technologies, such as automated grow systems, climate control, lighting, and irrigation, to optimize yield, quality, and resource efficiency.
    • Collaborate with Product Management to develop and prioritize a pipeline of innovation projects and system optimized Farm designs that will improve cost, performance, efficiency, sustainability KPIs of Plenty Farms
    • Ensure timely completion of design and specification deliverables (to Product) required to progress subsystem and farm designs through the stage gate processes. Specifications will enable cost reduction, efficient deployment and further standardization initiatives.
    • Collaborate closely with Plant Science to ensure that engineering solutions enhance plant health, productivity, and sustainability.
    • Collaborate closely with Deployment, and Operations to build farms that are efficient, operable, and on an improving cost curve.
    • Ensure compliance with relevant regulatory requirements, safety standards, and industry best practices.
  4. Project Management
    • Develop and execute project plans, timelines, and budgets for engineering initiatives, ensuring successful execution from concept to completion.
    • Monitor project progress, identify risks, and implement mitigation strategies to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality outcomes.
    • In partnership with Supply Chain, who will own the contractual relationship, identify, select, manage, and coordinate with external vendors, contractors, and partners to leverage their expertise and optimize outcomes.
    • Grow Engineering project management team competency and improve engineering program outcomes with team training, structure, education and OKRs in this area.
    • Further PLM processes for farm design and strengthen our FEL and FEED processes to develop to both build out farms and accurately estimate project costs.
    • Others duties as assigned

What you'll bring to the table

  • Education or experience equivalent to a B.S. in an Engineering discipline and 15+ years of progressive Engineering leadership experience within a food production, life sciences manufacturing or similar type of environment.
  • Piercing pragmatism that approaches all design problems from first principles, and is unafraid to reject design work for better approaches.
  • Comfort navigating both the chaos of early stage, prototypical products and processes, while guiding the organization overall to a more mature operational standard.
  • Experience with complex design problems, driving improved economics through design, and deployment speed and performance through processes of design simplification and elimination are also important.
  • Experience with infrastructure and large construction projects is a plus.
  • Creative but realistic, you know how to manage the risks of improvement against performance and cost in other parts of the organization.
  • This role is highly strategic, and will demand that candidates are strategically designing and directing their organization in the larger context of the business and its markets. Farms must be designed for construction.
  • This role will require close and enthusiastic cross-disciplinary partnership building between engineers and scientists.
  • Has the ability and enthusiasm to communicate with other non-technical members of the executive team to demonstrate relevance and impact/risk of engineering decisions; also has the ability to step into discussions at the level of the board of directors.
  • Expertise and experience across a combination of the following disciplines will be important:
    • Hardware (from small electronic devices to factory lines, structures to industrial automation)
    • Facility design experience
    • The biological-mechanical interface; have a bias for physical interaction of prototypes, test products and processes
    • Automation and innovation for new automation applications
    • Successful at identifying, selecting, and managing third party engineering providers, both Facility and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM)
    • Value engineering and reductive design processes
    • Strong budget and program management capabilities to meet scope, schedule and budget parameters
    • Cross-functional leadership of teams working with all Engineering disciplines (mechanical, process, chemical, manufacturing, etc.) as well as non-engineering disciplines. Experience implementing quality systems, qualification processes and experience designing for food safety are a plus.

Type of role

Full-Time; Onsite

What we can offer

  • Compensation; we’ll pay you a competitive salary, give you a stake in the company via equity and contribute toward your 401K
  • Health & well-being; we’ll invest in your physical and mental well-being with comprehensive medical, dental, & vision benefits, in-office gyms, and an Employee Assistance Program to help with mental health, financial & legal matters
  • Food; in-office lunches, snacks and access to our leafy greens & new produce in development -- are you up for a side gig as a taste tester?
  • Grow together; learning & development opportunities including unlimited access to our Upstart University platform, LinkedIn Learning, lunch & learns, training certifications, and more
  • Equipment; we’ll provide you with the equipment you need to be successful, including $75/month toward your phone bill and $250 every 2 years to upgrade your phone
  • Paid time off; we know you’ll do your best if you’re taking time to recharge, so we don’t cap the amount of days you can take off per year in addition to the paid holidays we observe
  • Parental leave; 12 weeks off for all new parents - fully paid so you can focus your energy on your newest addition

Food & Safety Requirements

  • Comply with all Plant, State and Federal OSHA, EPA, FDA, HACCP, and SQF regulations
  • Ensure equipment design is of a material suitable for food safety and designed in a way that is smooth and easily cleanable
  • All applicants must be 18 years or older to apply
  • Participate and lead in the annual Management review of the Food Safety and quality system
  • Ensure appropriate allocation of resources for food safety and quality and responsible for Food Safety at Plenty