By the end of 2019, UK stores could have vegetables grown in store.
John Lewis has confirmed that it is working with Lettus Grow to install aeroponic containers to grow the plants in store. The company is based in Bristol and is currently growing vegetables such as red cabbage, kale, salads and micro-herbs in a disused railway tunnel. The vertical growing units are soil free, meaning they can easily be placed in supermarkets allowing customers to pick their own salad or vegetables.
John Lewis has selected Lettus Grow as one of its six JLab start-up companies, chosen from 160 companies that applied. Lettus Grow use aeroponic technology to grow the vegetables in cylinders and spraying them with a mist of water-borne nutrients. As the plant is grown in certain conditions, with year-round light, there’s no need for chemicals or pesticides, this also increases the rate of production.
German company, Infarm is also looking to expand into the UK market. It currently operates with retailers in Europe and has a presence in more than 100 shops. Each individual farm is connected remotely to ensure the best possible environment for growth. Minimising the distancefrom planted location to farming location also increases the freshness of the crop. The Infarm units can be placed in supermarkets, restaurants, bars or even warehouses.
Part of a bigger trend
This trend for testing produce being ‘farmed’ in-store has already been seen in stores in Italy and Germany, and the vertical farming approach is represented by companies such as GrowUp Urban Farms in the UK. There are challenges to be overcome, particularly relating to scale, and the capital investment required is significant.