Supermarket Perimeter - January 2021 - 47

FREIGHT FARMS

URBAN FARMS CHECK A VARIETY OF BOXES for today's consumers:
locally grown, sustainable, low carbon footprint - not to mention fresh,
healthy and tasty.
And the COVID pandemic has only made them more attractive,
as transportation and logistics created huge headaches for retailers,
shippers and everyone in between along the supply chain. Kroger,
Whole Foods Market and Safeway are just a few of the big-name US
retailers to get on board.
Minneapolis-based North Market installed a Freight Farms hydroponic
vertical container farm in the summer of 2020, and the retailer followed
that up in December with the decision to power its farm with solar
panels connected to its roof.
" Now we have a repurposed shipping container, growing the
equivalent of two acres of outdoor growing space, using only five
gallons of water a day, entirely powered by solar panels, selling into
a grocery store located 50 feet away, " said Ethan Neal, food systems
manager for Pillsbury United Communities, the nonprofit organization
that funded the farm. " It's creating some of the highest quality produce
available in a neighborhood that was considered one of the largest food
deserts in the state of Minnesota. "
Built in an upcycled shipping container and controlled by a datadriven IoT platform called farmhand, North Market's 320-square-foot
farm is located in the retailer's parking lot.
North Market sources 11 vegetables and herbs from the farm yearround: three varieties of mini compact romaine lettuces, green oakleaf,
basil, Thai basil, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, sage and mint.
When the Freight Farm launched, North Market organized a twoweek window of educational tours and " meet your farmer " events. Neal
said that customers continue to be curious about the produce and ask
if they can have a tour of the farm. To help engage the community,
North Market applied a wrap to the Freight Farm's exterior that functions
like a self-guided science museum on how hydroponic vertical
farming works.
Post-COVID, North Market will expand its educational curriculum
to include in-farm learning as well. Micah Helle, Pillsbury United's
hydroponic specialist and onsite farmer, is currently developing this
curriculum, and is already working with an intern from the community
who is getting hands-on learning, while also managing the farm's
Instagram presence to give the community a digital peek inside the
Freight Farm.
Furthering customer education, North Market is creating its own
branding and packaging for its Freight Farm crops that will note the
produce is hyper-local and grown just outside the store, how it's grown
hydroponically, and " why it's awesome. "
In January, North Market began selling its crops to other co-ops and
grocery stores in North Minneapolis.
" This project has always been about more than growing produce, "
Neal said. " We are creating greater access to the agtech and food
production industry especially for the local BIPOC community,
including hard and soft skill training opportunities.
Other benefits of farming on site include:
x Elimination of food miles: the crops only travel steps from the parking
lot to the store
x Consistent reliability: store can produce its own line of crops for

shoppers, with year-round consistency regardless of the weather or
changing climate conditions in Minneapolis
x Quality and freshness: by being grown hyper-locally (in this case,
right onsite), produce stays fresh for far longer, reducing food waste
for both the store and consumers
x Cost reduction: in removing distribution costs from the equation,
PUC is able to pass savings on to the consumer
x Traceability and safety: the farm's integrated IoT platform, farmhand,
enables complete traceability of crops from seed to harvest
North Market also sells produce from Pillsbury United Community's
other soil-based farms in the city. To get those crops to the store,
bicycle couriers pick up freshly harvested food from the organization's
Southside gardens and deliver them to North Market to be sold.
Completing the cycle, they also pick up surplus food and bring it back to
the Southside to be distributed in community delivery meal programs.
Remaining food is composted back at the Southside gardens.
Freight Farms' CEO, Rick Vanzura, said supermarkets are the tip
of a huge iceberg representing a complicated logistics system that's
being strained like never before. While grocery retail is experiencing an
extreme surge in consumer demand, gaps are growing in the system
due to disruptions in transportation, imports, and workforce illness and
shortages at both the supply and store level.
" When it comes to fresh produce, there has fortunately been no
shortage of food in this country, " Vanzura said. " But when perishable
produce can no longer move efficiently between point A - say, a
California lettuce farm or strawberry grower in Mexico - and B, store
shelves, delays lead to both spoilage and supply shock. "

Infarm's indoor farms have saved
more than 7 million gallons of water
and 400,000 square feet of land.
Retail test case: Whole Foods
Whole Foods Market customers are now able to purchase a range
of fresh produce that has been grown by Infarm, the world's fastest
growing urban farming network.
It marks the third major expansion into the UK retail space for Infarm,
which launched a deal with Kroger in the US in 2019, as retailers seek
ways to reduce the environmental footprint in their supply chain and
develop their range of sustainable produce.
Infarm has installed two of its modular vertical farming units in two
of Whole Foods Market's London outlets, High Street Kensington and
Fulham, so shoppers can buy fresh produce grown directly in store,
according to Infarm.
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.
" Whole Foods Market felt like a perfect fit for Infarm, " said Daniel
Kats, Infarm's vice president of corporate sales. " 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

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