While we haven’t arrived at a future where every corner grocery has an in-store farming system with rows and rows of produce, it isn’t for lack of trying.
This is especially true for METRO Group, Germany’s largest retailer, who has been experimenting with in-store farming since early 2016.
That’s when the retailer launched Kräuter Garten (herb garden), the first retail in-store farming installation in Europe. The technology for METRO’s first foray into vertical farming was provided by INFARM, a vertical farming startup based in Germany. Since the launch of Kräuter Garten in Berlin, other retailers such as EDEKA (Germany’s largest grocery store chain) have since taken an interest in in-store growing.
Now METRO is at it again, launching another vertical farming experiment with Farmlab.one, a joint project between the retail giant and Schmiede.ONE, a German innovation lab focused on future business models that intermingle agriculture and cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence.
The project will be managed by James Lindsay of Schmiede.ONE in an indoor lab in Düsseldorf. METRO has provided resources in the form of indoor farming racks from TowerGarden, the indoor farming division of Juice+. The project is starting with three crops to start, which you can watch here via Periscope.
While the project is a modest one, it’s a sign of continued interest in vertical, in-building farming by a large food retailer. In the US, we’ve seen growing interest in solutions from companies like Farmshelf, and just last month we saw one of the biggest investments ever in a vertical farming startup when Jeff Bezos, among others, invested $200 million in stealthy startup Plenty.
While it’s unlikely that in-store vertical farms could produce at the scale to meet the total demand for fresh produce purchased at a high-volume urban retail storefront, it’s clear that soilless vertical farms produce at a much high rate of productivity compared to soil based farming, which means much less overall space is needed to produce the same amount of produce. With such high yields, one can envision a future where a mix of in-store grown produce combined with other warehouse grown urban farmed food could be enough to meet a large percentage of overall demand for fresh produce.