Whole Foods Market is the latest grocer to experiment with growing its own food in-store. The retailer is joining forces with Infarm to offer customers a range of fresh produce in two of its London stores.
While Infarm didn't say whether it will supply Whole Foods' U.S. stores, the move follows an installation of a mini-farm from New York-based Farm.One in one of Whole Foods' Manhattan units last July.
Also in the U.S. market, Cincinnati-based Kroger introduced in-store farms provided by Infarm in select stores last November.
This marks the third major expansion into the U.K. retail space for Infarm, as retailers seek ways to reduce the environmental footprint in their supply chains and develop their own range of sustainable produce.
Amazon Fresh (Seattle-based Amazon is the parent company of Whole Foods) also has deals with Infarm in Germany, Switzerland and France, according to published reports.
Infarm has now installed two of its modular vertical farming units in two of Whole Foods' London outlets: High Street Kensington and Fulham. The remaining five London stores will be supplied with produce from a local Infarm growing center in Tottenham, providing flexible supply as and when required, according to Infarm.
The launch follows deals with Selfridges London and Marks & Spencer, as well as the online delivery service Farmdrop, and shows how a growing number of retailers are now taking action to create a more sustainable food system.
Daniel Kats, VP of corporate sales at Berlin-based Infarm, said: "Whole Foods Market felt like a perfect fit for Infarm. Its commitment to providing customers with vibrant, sustainable food aligns with our goal of growing produce locally and, in the process, substantially reducing food waste and the environmental impact of what we consume. We hope that in installing our modular farms in Kensington and Fulham, we can help to educate shoppers about the future of food."
Jade Hoai, director of purchasing and operations at Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, noted: "We are excited to partner with Infarm to offer a truly hyperlocal selection of greens and herbs across all of our London stores. Whole Foods Market customers can expect to find fresh, unique herbs from Infarm's vertical growing units like Bordeaux purple basil, that are grown locally, have no pesticides, and use a fraction of the traditional resources required to grow. We are excited about this relationship for its joint commitment to environmental stewardship and for the delicious, nutritious meals our customers will be crafting at home."
Whole Foods shoppers will be able to purchase Infarm's range of herbs, including Mountain Coriander, Flat Parsley, Basil, Mint, Dill and Thai Basil. Infarm's range of fresh lettuce (Crystal, Caravel, Duo and Red Romaine) will also be available to buy. Whole Foods is also set to stock Nero di Toscana, Scarlet Kale, Sorrel and Red Stem Mizuna.
Infarm farmers visit the store after each growth cycle to add new seedlings to the farm. The plants retain their roots post-harvest to maintain exceptional flavor and freshness, meaning that they're still alive when harvested, according to Infarm.
The company said that its units use 95% less water and 90% less transport than traditional agriculture, as well as 75% less fertilizer and no pesticides. Measuring just 2 square meters (about 21 square feet), Infarm's in-store farms produce more than 8,000 plants per year, with the first harvest from Whole Foods Kensington due on Nov. 19.
Infarm has partnered with more than 30 major food retailers across the globe.