Touting human-free growing rooms for its leafy greens, robotic-farming specialist Fifth Season announced it has expanded its distribution partnership with Giant Eagle Inc.
In a news release, Pittsburgh-based Fifth Season said four of its leafy greens blends and packaged salads are now available at more than 75 Giant Eagle and Market District grocery stores in the Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh regions. Previously, Fifth Season products were available only at 10 Giant Eagle and Market District stores in and around Pittsburgh (also Giant Eagle's hometown), as well as in select Pittsburgh-area independent grocers.
Fifth Season is positioning itself as a fresher source for greens for grocers and consumers east of the Mississippi. The vast majority of leafy greens sold in the U.S.—98%, according to Fifth Season—are grown in California, Arizona or outside the country. "Produce isn't grown where the overwhelming majority of consumers demand it," the company stated.
Growing leafy greens in a controlled environment closer to their end destination reduces the need for long-haul transportation and ensures fresher product on store shelves, according to Fifth Season. The company also said its vertical growing system uses 97% less land and 95% less water than conventional farms.
Robotic picking systems harvest the greens, "creating a significantly lower risk for pathogens and other contaminants" vs. picking by humans, the company stated in its release. Fifth Season's solar-powered, 60,000-square-foot farm opened in Braddock, Pa., in 2020; the facility is expected to produce 500,000 pounds of produce in its first full year of operation. Besides its distribution to grocery stores, the company also offers direct-to-consumer sales and a subscription service.
Fifth Season's expanded Giant Eagle distribution gives the company access to 650,000 households in Ohio and Pennsylvania. "We are committed to offering Giant Eagle and Market District guests access to the highest quality fresh, locally sourced produce no matter the season through innovative growing practices like vertical farming," Giant Eagle VP of Fresh Merchandising Dave Rajkovich said in a news release.
The company, founded in 2015 as RoBotany, has big-name backing, as well: NHL Hall of Fame member and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux is a partner, and earlier this year, Fifth Season announced it will be the official greens provider for the Penguins.
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