In our annual trend report three years ago we correctly predicted that the time has come for supermarkets to install their own indoor farms, in which shoppers could pick their own produce right from the farm—the ultimate in freshness, taste and local. Kroger is leading the way by adding these mini-farms to two of its Quality Food Centers (QFC) stores in the state of Washington.
Kroger has teamed up with Infarm, a six-year-old startup based in Germany, to install modular vertical farms. In these mini-farms, which use a hydroponic farming method, nine varieties of lettuce and herbs are stacked in rows and grown in nutrient-rich water until they are mature enough to be sold to customers.
Infarm has more than 500 such installations in stores and distribution centers in other parts of the world, but this is its first installations in U.S. grocery stores. The growing process at the two pilot stores involves LEDs and an irrigation system with recycled water. Infarm uses a cloud-based technology system to remotely control the temperature and lighting for each of its farms.
“Customers today want transparency; they want to know exactly where their product is from, the provenance where it was grown,” said Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group VP of fresh foods.
The program has already been deemed a success by Kroger. Monford said the stores have been selling everything from kale to cilantro as fast as the plants have been able to mature. Kroger has announced plans to expand vertical farming to 13 more QFCs in Washington and Oregon by April.
Infarm’s the ultimate goal is to make local food production mainstream. “For the bulk of the last century, food has been produced far from where it is consumed, generating a supply chain that is environmentally unsustainable,” said Osnat Michaeli, the company’s co-founder and chief brand officer. “Our modular farms offer the potential of turning the supply chain on its head by building the world’s first global farming network.”
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