US retailer Safeway is making healthy greens more accessible to smaller communities by welcoming produce from vertical farming company Plenty to 17 more stores across Northern California — bringing the total number of stores carrying Plenty products in the region to 53, according to Progressive Grocer. The additional Albertsons-owned stores, which include Safeway and Vons, are part of a multiyear agreement between the two companies to expand Plenty produce into more than 430 Albertsons-owned stores across the state of California. The new store locations are primarily in smaller communities, making Plenty the first indoor vertically farmed produce available to these shoppers.
Plenty’s plant scientists, engineers and farmers have developed its indoor vertical-farming technology to grow nutrient-rich and pesticide-free plants year-round. Using data analytics, machine learning and customized lighting, the farming tech company is able to coax the natural flavours and nutrients from the plants. Plenty grows multiple crops in a building the size of a retail box store, yielding hundreds of acres using a fraction of the water and other precious resources.
In addition to debuting in more store locations, Plenty is debuting a first-of-its-kind Text-a-Farmer feature, on display next to its greens in stores. In the age of COVID, when human contact has been limited and in-person sampling restricted, Plenty’s texting feature connects with shoppers directly to answer questions and share information. Text-a-Farmer lets shoppers text questions while shopping and receive an answer directly from a Plenty farmer. Questions can cover anything related to Plenty and its produce, including “Do you use pesticides on your leafy greens,” “Is your packaging recyclable,” and “How do I keep my greens fresh longer?”
© Thomas Samson, AFP
UK retailer Marks & Spencer have extended their indoor farms to six other stores in London. In partnership with vertical farming specialist, Infarm, M&S has installed hydroponic indoor units that incorporate machine learning, Internet of Things technology, and eco-controlled systems to ensure the optimum amount of light, air and nutrients are used. Growing a selection of herbs, each unit can be controlled remotely via a cloud-based platform, which learns, adjusts and continually improves to ensure each plant grows better than the last one.
Infarm’s solutions offer environmental benefits, as each unit consumes 95% less water and 75% less fertiliser than soil-based agriculture. Each unit produces the equivalent size crop to 400 square metres of farmland, with absolutely no pesticide use. M&S has announced that it plans to continue rolling out in-store farms over the coming months.
Marks & Spencer is now offering in-store grown fresh herbs – including basils, mints, curly parsley and mountain coriander. The herbs are grown on Infarm vertical farming units at its re-opened Clapham Junction store in London, and the retailer is set to extend the programme to six other London stores by the end of the year.
Infarm’s innovative farming technology combines highly efficient vertical farming units with the latest IOT technologies and machine learning to deliver a controlled eco-system with the optimum amount of light, air and nutrients. Each unit is remotely controlled using a cloud-based platform, which learns, adjusts and continuously improves to ensure each plant grows better than the last one.
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of Infarm said, “London represents many of the sustainability challenges that people will experience in cities over the next several decades. By offering produce grown and harvested in the heart of the city, we want to practice a form of agriculture that is resilient, sustainable and beneficial to our planet while meeting the needs of urban communities – first in London, and in the future, cities across the United Kingdom.”
Each in-store farm unit uses 95% less water and 75% less fertiliser than traditional soil-based agriculture and is capable of producing the equivalent of 400 square metres of farmland, resulting in a more sustainable use of natural resources and ensuring zero pesticide use.