Supermarket chain Coop Denmark announced plans this week to bring vertical farming its Irma stores via a partnership with Germany’s InFarm. The retailer says it plans to introduce InFarm’s technology to 35 stores over the next few months, following a successful pilot in 2019.
Berlin-based InFarm is one of the many agtech startups out there now using vertical farms to shorten the supply chain between farmer and consumer. The company’s high-tech vertical farming pods can be installed inside locations like grocery stores or restaurants, and use a combination of hydroponics and software to in part automate the process of monitoring and managing crop growth. Like most hydroponic farms right now, InFarm currently grows leafy greens and herbs inside its pods.
Placing vertical farms in stores also means customers get access to fresher greens, since they are harvested on site. In a press release, Søren Steffensen, Irma’s director, called vertical farming the “way of the future to grow vegetables. With this collaboration, we unite Irma’s goal of promoting the most sustainable forms of production and the best possible quality of taste.”
This isn’t the first time in the supermarket for InFarm. The company brought its high-tech pods to Marks & Spencer food stores in the UK last year, as well as to some Kroger outlets in the U.S. And InFarm isn’t the only company trying to grow leafy greens and herbs closer to where consumers shop for and eat their food. Square Roots has partnered with Gordon Food Service, one of the largest distributors in North America, to build its containerized vertical farms near Gordon distribution centers. And earlier this month, Freight Farms announced a partnership with Sodexo to bring vertical farming to U.S. schools and colleges.
We’re likely a long ways off from the having vertical farms a regular part of every supermarket chain’s layout. But as we noted in our 2020 predictions at the beginning of the year, “putting the farm is right next to your table, or at least at your local grocery retailer, is becoming a popular strategy for providing healthier, more traceable greens to consumers,” and one we’ll see more of in the coming months.