Marks & Spencer has rolled out vertical farm units in seven stores in London. The British department store chain grows fresh herbs in connected mini-greenhouses.
Freshly picked herbs in the department store
Three months after the trial started in one store, Marks & Spencer is expanding its experiment with vertical indoor farming units to six additional locations in the British capital. From now on, the mini-greenhouses can be found in seven department stores in London, where a selection of herbs such as mint, parsley and coriander are grown on site. This way, customers can buy the herbs minutes after being harvested.
After M&S installed the first smart greenhouse in a renovated store last September, the vertical on-site farming has been a much-discussed topic. and M&S Food's image in the neighbourhood has also become 'fresher'. "The farm brings a feeling of real freshness and customers have been keen to discuss its sustainability benefits too", store manager Joe Erskine told Retail Gazette.
Remote controlled ecosystem
Vertical farms use 95 % less water and 75 % less fertiliser than traditional agricultural soils, Infarm claims. That company's technology combines vertical farming units with connected technology and machine learning to create a fully controlled ecosystem where light, air and nutrients are controlled remotely. The cloud platform continuously learns and improves the growing process as it progresses.
The decision as to which six new stores will have a greenhouse was also made on the basis of data: M&S has relied on the sales data of fresh herbs in existing London stores to see where demand would be highest.