InFarm is bringing its in-store vertical farming systems to Empire supermarkets across Canada, according to a press release from Empire. The partnership will launch this coming spring and put InFarms’s high-tech farm pods in stores across that country, including at Empire subsidiaries Sobeys, Thrifty Foods, and Safeway Canada.
Berlin-based InFarm, which raised $100 million in June of 2019, has struck multiple deals with grocery store chains around the world over the last several months, including Irma in Denmark, M&S in the UK, and Kroger stores in the U.S. The company is one of many startups developing vertical and/or indoor farming solutions meant to shorten the food supply chain by growing greens closer to food stores.
With InFarm, that means growing those leafy greens and herbs inside the produce section of stores. The company’s indoor farms come in the form of enclosed pods that use the hydroponic grow method, meaning plant roots are submerged in a nutrient-enriched water supply and no soil is involved. Cloud-based software controls the temperature, watering schedule, and light and humidity levels of the farms, adjusting those elements based on plant type.
There are two major benefits to this in-store approach to vertical farming. Zero pesticides are used in the grow process, and greens can be harvested onsite, reducing carbon emissions since food doesn’t have to be transported to the store from a distribution center.
Better-tasting greens is another one of InFarm’s claims. By precisely adjusting light, temperature, water levels, and other elements, vertical farmers can create ideal growing “recipes” for each plant type meant to bring out the optimal amount of flavor.
Many vertical farming companies make this claim, along with those about reduced water usage and carbon footprint. What the indoor ag industry needs next is more public data backing these claims up. With other companies — notably Square Roots and Freight Farms — striking deals of their own to get vertical farms closer to food stores, more hard numbers will be needed to show us when, where, and how these high-tech farms can be most useful in the overall food system.
InFarm will launch a range of herbs at two Safeway stores in Vancouver this spring, according to the press release, and Empire will also put farms in stores across seven Canadian cities.