Marks and Spencer (M&S) is partnering with urban farming platform Infarm to sell fresh produce grown and harvested in its stores.
The UK retailer is now growing a range of fresh herbs – including basil, mint, parsley and coriander – at its newly re-opened Clapham Junction store in London, with Infarm vertical farming units set to roll out to a further six London stores by the end of the year.
Infarm’s farming technology combines vertical farming units with internet of things (IOT) technologies and machine learning to deliver a controlled eco-system that is said to have the optimum amount of light, air and nutrients.
Each unit is remotely controlled using a cloud-based platform, which learns, adjusts and continuously improves to ensure each plant grows better than the last one.
“Infarm’s innovative farming platform is a fantastic example of what can happen when passionate agricultural, food and technology experts work together,” said Paul Willgoss, director of food technology, M&S Food.
“We operate as part of a complex global food supply chain and want to understand the emerging technologies that could help provide more sustainable solutions, whilst also delivering fantastic products with exceptional taste, quality and freshness for our customers.”
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of Infarm, added: “London represents many of the sustainability challenges that people will experience in cities over the next several decades. By offering produce grown and harvested in the heart of the city, we want to practise a form of agriculture that is resilient, sustainable and beneficial to our planet while meeting the needs of urban communities.”
M&S is the first UK retailer to work with Infarm and the partnership will be supported by the construction of a series of Infarm distribution centres in and around London. These central hubs will provide the seedlings for each unit, which are then grown in store. Infarm farmers will visit the stores at least twice a week to harvest and add new seedlings to the farm.
Founded in 2013, Infarm is one of the world’s largest urban farming platforms, harvesting and distributing more than 200,000 plants each month across its network. It currently operates across Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the UK.
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