What if you could find produce with farmers market freshness and supermarket convenience? Thanks to a relatively new practice (within the U.S.) known as in-store farming, you can.
More U.S. retailers, including Kroger Co. and Whole Foods, are embracing in-store farming technology to bring fresh, local produce to their customers. By virtually eliminating the distance between the source and the shelf, retailers are not only promoting a fresher product, but a more ecologically sourced one as well. Some of the most popular foods being grown inside supermarkets include herbs, leafy greens, microgreens, and mushrooms.
How does it work? Hydroponic systems are one solution for efficiently growing produce in-store. Bare roots are planted into a constantly moving flow of water that’s filled with the numerous nutrients that plants require to grow. According to Infarm, an in-store farming startup based in Berlin, each of its hydroponic in-store farm units use 95% less water and 75% less fertilizer than what’s used when growing produce with conventional methods. Because the produce is grown on-site and only picked by consumers when needed, there is little food spoilage.
Infarm partnered with Kroger in late 2019, bringing their modular farms to Kroger’s QFC stores in Washington state. The partnership marked the first of its kind in the U.S. and a big step towards Kroger’s goal of eliminating waste across the company by 2025. “Kroger believes that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable and delicious food, no matter who you are, how you shop or what you like to eat,” said Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh. “Our partnership with Infarm allows us to innovate by combining ground-breaking in-store farming technology with our passion for fresh, local produce and ecological sourcing. Kroger is excited to be first to market and offer the best of the season, and we’re proud to lead the U.S. on this journey.”
Smallhold, a company that builds in-store mushroom farms, is bringing their new technology to a rapidly expanding network of U.S. restaurants and supermarkets, including Whole Foods. Smallhold’s mini indoor farms can produce up to 10 different mushroom varieties and up to 100 pounds of mushrooms a week. These turnkey farms are monitored through an app, where everything from humidity to CO2 can be adjusted at a moment’s notice. This technology couldn’t come at a better time as mushrooms are positioned to see significant growth in 2020. “The North America mushroom market accounted for $1.85 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.7% over the forecast period 2019-2027, to account for $3.51 billion by 2027,” reports Business Wire.
As consumer interest in locally sourced, environmentally sustainable produce grows, we should expect to see more retailers jumping on board with in-store farming practices.