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Tesla loses another of its most senior engineering executives to farming startup Plenty

Last year, Tesla’s longtime battery technology director and one of the company’s most veteran engineers, Kurt Kelty, left the automaker to join vertical farming startup Plenty.

Now, the company has poached another senior engineering executive from Tesla.

Nick Kalayjian has been working at Tesla for over a decade.

As one of the earliest engineers to join Tesla, he first worked on the first generation Roadster’s transmission system.

He later was in charge of Roadster 2.0 and quickly moved through the ranks of Tesla’s engineering department as the company grew.

At one point, he led the development of the Model S powertrain and he later was promoted to VP of Engineering and was responsible for several programs. Those included hardware development and Model 3 General Assembly Manufacturing Engineering and Material Flow Engineering, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Kalayjian is now leaving the company to also join Plenty as senior vice president of engineering.

He talked to Forbes about his move:

The mission of Plenty is potentially bigger than the electrification of transportation or the grid. The energy consumed, the impact on the environment of farming all over the world is massive, and it’s a problem that needs a kind of engineering focus Tesla applies to vehicles. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to have a big impact.

A dozen former Tesla staff, including Kelty who joined Tesla in 2006 like Kalayjian, are reportedly also working at Plenty.

Plenty co-founder and CEO Matt Barnard said this about the fact that they seem to be hiring a lot from Tesla:

We’re ‘productizing’ farms. These are very dense, highly resource-efficient farms. It’s a very complex engineering problem. It’s super important for us to have a production system to grow food at prices that fit into everyone’s budget. Few people in the world that have led engineering development and productization processes that move as fast for systems that are as dense and complex as what Nick and his teams at Tesla have done.

Tesla has lost several high-profile engineering staff recently – most notably VP of hardware engineering and Autopilot Jim Keller.

But the automaker has also been hiring many new execs.

After announcing a flurry of new executive hires from Apple, Amazon, and more last month, they announced a new head of Energy operations hired from Amazon and a new head of Tesla Europe coming from BMW just last week.

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