Foodservice and facilities management company Sodexo announced this week it will partner with controlled environment agriculture (CEA) grower Vertical Harvest to source greens from the latter’s forthcoming vertical farm in Maine. Sodexo said it will source about 80 percent of its lettuce products distributed in its Maine facilities from that farm, rather than importing food from other states.
Vertical Harvest is scheduled to break ground on the Westbrook, Maine farm in August 2021. When completed, the farm will be a four-story, 70,000-square-foot facility that produces about 1 million pounds of lettuce annually. The company already operates one farm, in Jackson, Wyoming, where it grows different types of leafy greens and distributes those to grocery stores and restaurants.
Because of its climate, Maine imports a good deal of its produce from other regions. Vertical Harvest says that once its Westbrook farm is operational, it will “displace” much of this out-of-state produce. Growers will also be able to produce year-round, which normally wouldn’t be possible in a state as far north as Maine.
Sodexo, meanwhile, is one of the largest employers in Maine, and says it serves about 13,000 meals per day at colleges and hospitals across the state. By partnering with Vertical Harvest, the company will be able to serve fresher, more local greens at all 14 of its partner locations in the state.
This isn’t Sodexo’s first time to partner with a CEA company, either. In 2020, the foodservice giant announced a partnership with Freight Farms to bring container grow systems to school cafeterias and university dining halls around the U.S. Elsewhere in the world of food innovation, Sodexo has also launched an Impossible Burger menu and sent Kiwi’s delivery robots across college campuses with food deliveries.