Supermarkets are finding new ways to show their commitment to locally-grown food.
Delhaize, the leading retailer in Belgium, has launched a vegetable garden and greenhouse on the rooftop of one of its stores in the Brussels area. The produce will be sold in-store and offer customers an opportunity to buy locally. Five kinds of lettuce are currently being grown and tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchini will be added next year. The farm will also serve an educational purpose, offering workshops to schools in 2018.
While urban farming has been discussed in the past, major supermarkets are now making these conceptual ideas a reality. There is a range of benefits to these kinds of farms. Indoor farming can give consumers access to fresh produce year-round—even those who live in dense, urban areas. In addition to greatly reducing carbon emissions, indoor farming also uses less water than traditional farming and doesn’t require pesticides.
“Developing a healthy and high-quality nutritional pattern…is one of the challenges of the Brussels region,” Brussels Minster for Environment and Energy Céline Fremault stated in a release. “This first city farm of Delhaize is therefore an excellent initiative, which fully fits into one of Brussels’ ambitions: to increase local production.”
Earlier this year, French retailer Carrefour revealed a similar rooftop initiative to Delhaize which is managed by students of a local agricultural school. Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, similarly launched a “Help-yourself Herb Garden” in one of its shops that allowed customers to pick fresh plants. Meanwhile in Canada, IGA became the first store to sell store-grown produce in Montreal, offering 30 varieties of vegetables. Even Target in the US is piloting vertical gardens in its stores.
Infarm, a Berlin-based start-up, is trying to make this a reality for every supermarket. The company created an indoor “herb garden” for supermarkets which houses plants in a protected, nutrient-rich environment. The customer-facing farm connects to an app that monitors important factors such as pH levels and temperature.
“Behind our farms is a robust hardware and software platform for precision farming,” Infarm co-founder Osnat Michaeli tells TechCrunch. “Each farming unit is its own individual ecosystem, creating the exact environment our plants need to flourish.” Los Angeles-based start-up Local Roots has taken a similar approach, using shipping containers to bring urban farms to grocers, universities, and community centres. Their goal is to create a network of community-based farms across the US.
Ethically-minded consumers are becoming more health conscious and starting to question where their food comes from and the effect it has on the environment. It’s imperative that brands respond to this concern and continue to implement initiatives that reduce emissions. Brands that are creative in reducing their carbon footprint will reduce costs, tackle climate change and ultimately attract more consumers looking for fresh, high-quality food.