Vertical farming company AeroFarms this week announced it a partnership with Chile-based berry producer and distributor Hortifrut. Via the multi-year partnership, the companies will research and develop blueberry and caneberry production in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) settings, including vertical farms.
Up to now, AeroFarms has been known primarily for growing leafy greens and herbs inside its commercial-scale vertical farms on the east coast. Blueberries and caneberries (blackberries, raspberries, etc.) are both a departure from the usual from AeroFarms, and somewhat unique in the vertical farming space, where strawberries are more common.
According to a press release, the first phase of the partnership between the two companies is underway, and blueberry plants will arrive at AeroFarms’ New Jersey facility this spring. Hortifrut has bred “compact blueberry plants ideal for vertical farming,” while AeroFarms has adjusted its proprietary tech system for berry production.
While the companies aim to commercialize the process of growing these berries indoors, there is not yet any kind of timeframe as to when we might see vertically grown blueberries or caneberries on store shelves. Rather, this first phase of the partnership appears to be more about experimenting with Hortifrut berries in an indoor setting and assessing how feasible it is to grow such foods via CEA.
Fruit on the vertical farm is still the exception rather than the rule when it comes to the crops companies grow. As noted above, strawberries are more common at this point, with companies like SinGrow and Oishii growing high-end versions of the berry and Plenty partnering with Driscoll’s on the west coast.
AeroFarms’ news comes just days after the company announced it will go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Spring Valley Acquisition Corp.