M&S has launched its own in-store vertical farm to grow fresh herbs on location.
Customers at M&S’ Clapham Junction store will find a range of herbs, including basil, mint, curly parsley and mountain coriander, all grown using vertical farm technology developed by tech firm infarm.
Infarm’s vertical units combine the latest IOT technology with machine learning, to deliver a controlled eco-system with 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.
Paul Willgoss, director of food technology, M&S Food, said: “Infarm’s innovative farming platform is a fantastic example of what can happen when passionate agricultural, food and technology experts work together.
"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.”
Each in-store farm unit uses 95 per cent less water and 75 per cent less fertiliser than soil-based agriculture and is capable of producing the equivalent of 400 square meters of farmland, resulting in a more sustainable use of natural resources, using no pestcides.
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of infarm commented: “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 practice a form of agriculture that is resilient, sustainable and beneficial to our planet while meeting the needs of urban communities - first in London, and in the future, cities across the United Kingdom."
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 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. The plants retain their roots post-harvest to maintain exceptional flavour and freshness.
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. Infarm currently operates across Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom where it has deployed more than 500 farms in stores and distribution centres.