Whole Foods UK to install vertical farming units

Amazon-owned grocer Whole Foods Market is set to install vertical farming facilities in its High Street Kensington and Fulham stores.

A new partnership with urban farming company, Infarm, will result in modular vertical farming units placed in the London shops, giving consumers access to produce that is freshly grown in those stores.

The Whole Foods-Infarm tie-up will expand at the end of October and early November, when an Infarm growing centre in Tottenham, north London will start supplying produce to Whole Foods stores in Piccadilly Circus, Stoke Newington, Richmond, Clapham Junction, and Camden.

Products available in Whole Foods via Infarm will include herbs such as coriander, flat parsley, basil, mint, and dill, as well as lettuce, kale, sorrel, and mizuna.

The partnership with Whole Foods is one of several Infarm has forged with UK-based retailers. It has already secured deals with Selfridges London, Farmdrop, and Marks & Spencer.

Infarm, which raised $170 million in series C funding in September, and has also received UK government backing, has a presence in the US, Canada, France, and Germany, and it will be soon launch in Japan.

Measuring 2 sq m, Infarm’s units can produce more than 8,000 plants per year, with the first harvest from Whole Foods in Kensington due on 19 November. Vertical farming is marketed as a way to grow fresh produce closer to where it is consumed, helping shorten the food supply chain and cut down on field to fork mileage.

Jade Hoai, director of purchasing & operations at Whole Foods, called the Infarm produce a “truly hyper-local selection of greens and herbs”.

“Whole Foods Market customers can expect to find fresh, unique herbs from Infarm’s vertical growing units like Boudreaux purple basil, that are grown locally, have no pesticides, and use a fraction of the traditional resources required to grow,” she added.

Infarm farmers visit the store after each growth cycle to add new seedlings to the units, which are connected to a central cloud-based ‘farm-brain’ that gathers more than 50,000 data points through a plant’s lifetime. Infarm said this allows the platform “to learn, adapt and improve itself constantly”, which means the company can continually tweak the growing environment using real-time insights and improve yields.