This week, UK-based department store chain Marks & Spencer announced a partnership with Infarm to bring vertical farms into M&S food stores.
Berlin-based Infarm makes high-tech vertical farming pods that use a cloud-based automated platform to control light, air, and nutrients inside the farm and monitor plant growth. The company, which raised a $100 million Series B round in June, already has partnerships in place with several food retailers in Europe including Intermarche, Migros, and Amazon Fresh.
The Marks & Spencer partnership, which is Infarm’s first one with a UK retailer, launched yesterday at M&S’s newly re-opened Clapham Junction store in London. The farm currently grows three different types of basil as well as mountain coriander, mint, and parsley. Customers themselves won’t be able to harvest the greens — that job goes to Infarm farmers, who will visit the store twice per week. But M&S customers will at least know exactly where their herbs came from. Infarm is constructing distribution centers in London that will provide seedlings, which then get transported right to the store.
Marks & Spencer said in a press release they plan to expand the partnership to six more London stores by the end of the year.
The vertical farming industry — projected to reach $12.77 billion by 2026 — is still figuring out its role in the future food system, and many questions remain around how to best deploy farms in densely populated urban areas to get more people fresh, locally sourced produce. Putting the goods in the same place consumers buy the rest of their food is a good place to start. Now we’ll have to see if supply can match demand, and vice versa.