Interview with Allie Grey

Check out our interview with Allison Grey, a mechanical engineer at vertical farming company in California!

Allison Grey is a mechanical engineer who works at Plenty, a company in San Francisco, California that builds technology for vertical farming. Their technology grows food indoors instead of out in open fields.

beanz: In what ways do you find technology to be magical for you?

Allie: I find technology to be magical because it allows us to change the way humans have always done things and create things that have never existed before. The thing that interests me most about technology is the ways it can be used to help people, improve their lives, and solve problems.

Before college and during my first year or two I thought I would go into medical robotics with the goal of helping people. I still find that field to be fascinating but over time I realized there are countless ways technology helps people outside the medical space. Tasers save lives when used instead of guns so working at Axon is what changed my perspective. Then I found Plenty and I feel what our work does helps people and the planet and will continue to do so at an increasing scale as we grow.

The challenging part of technology is that it is constantly changing and improving which could feel overwhelming but that is what makes it fun and exciting!

What kinds of problems do you try to solve at Plenty?

Allie: As I mentioned above, about technology allowing us to change how things have always been done, Plenty is on a mission to change the way people eat, making extraordinary flavor and nutrition more available in a way that’s better for people and the planet.

Agriculture has been the same for thousands of years and we are revolutionizing it. We’re bringing the farm indoors, making it vertical, and using technology for all stages from seeding to growing to harvesting to packaging. Additionally, the produce is always pesticide-free and grown using less than 1% of the land and 5% of the water of outdoor farming.

Some of the problems I work on specifically are designing machinery that is robust, capable of handling large quantities of produce, and is food safe and easily cleanable to reduce the risk of bacteria growing indoors. I use paper and pencil to do initial ideation, and then I design the robot on the computer using SolidWorks for Computer-Aided Design (CAD). I work with a cross-functional team of mechanical design engineers, controls engineers, project managers, and machinists to solve problems and create solutions.

How much did school help you with what you’re doing?

Allie: School helped tremendously with what I’m doing. I learned the mechanical engineering and robotics skills necessary to have a strong foundation. I learned hands-on skills like prototyping and CAD and precision machining. I learned how to work hard, think creatively, and take on large projects and execute them independently from start to finish.

I also had professors and mentors who guided me and advised me that helped get me to where I am today. I have learned a lot on the job particularly about working cross-functionally with other teams. I’ve learned how to go to different teams within Plenty and determine what their requirements for the technology are and then solve problems while working inside those externally defined bounds. I’ve also learned how to design sheet metal components. I’ve learned a lot more about food-safe materials and designing machines that are easily cleanable.

How did you get the internship in Tel Aviv, the Axon gig, and Boeing gig?

Allie: I got the internship in Tel Aviv by applying to an internship program called Onward Israel. Once accepted to that program they helped place me at the 3D printer company I worked at. I got my internships at both Axon and Boeing through recruiting events at Penn’s engineering career fair. At Boeing I was working as a Project Management Engineering Intern and I investigated the use of Model-Based Engineering which is a method of design, analysis, validation and verification for Boeing’s next aircraft.

When it came to full time jobs I had offers from Boeing, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boston Dynamics and Plenty. I chose Plenty because it was the statement of work and team culture I was looking for and the mission aligns perfectly with my own personal values. I love working in the San Francisco startup world and working on a project I am so passionate about on a team full of incredible engineers.

Learn More

Allison Grey

Plenty website

Plenty indoor vertical farm

Vertical farming

Vertical Farming in Urban populations

Most amazing vertical farms


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

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