Fifth Season, a company using vertical farming and robotics to grow greens indoors, just announced a sizable expansion for its leafy green products in Giant Eagle Retail stores. As of today, Fifth Season greens will be available in over 75 Giant Eagle and Market District stores across Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio metro areas.
The expansion is a significant jump from the company’s previous distribution reach, which was just 10 stores in the Pittsburgh area. The company also launched a direct-to-consumer service for Pittsburgh-area residents in 2020.
Like other controlled ag companies, Fifth Season grows greens vertically indoors, aiding the process with hydroponics and technology (sensors, AI, etc.). Its main differentiator at the moment is the robotics element of its grow process. A proprietary robotics system handles tasks on the farm such as stacking and moving trays of plants, harvesting, and packaging. While the system is overseen by a human, actual bodies are less needed in the grow room of Fifth Season’s farm, which cuts down on labor costs and can execute tasks faster. Human-free grow rooms also mean there is less chance of pathogens getting into the growing space and impacting plants’ health.
The use of robotics isn’t yet widespread in vertical farming, although that is changing quickly, with companies like Nordic Harvest and iFarm introducing a range of robotics and automation technologies to their operations. Kalera, which is expanding rapidly across the U.S., is another notable example.
For Fifth Season, today’s news marks the company’s first expansion outside of its hometown of Pittsburgh. The company will sell four different varieties of its greens as well as ready-to-eat salads at the new retail locations.
The company said in today’s press release that it is the first of many expansions Fifth Season will announce in 2021.