Being ultra local or farming as a service
It is funny how we come a full circle over major issues after hundreds of years. The newest and one of the strongest trends of 2020 is being ultra-local.
It is a trend to produce what you eat closer to where you consume it. Especially in Europe, the United States and Japan, rooftops and abandoned buildings are being used as gardens.
Furthermore, there are companies who built systems to produce vegetables like lettuce and kale right in the supermarket and sell it on the spot.
The Kroger Co. and Infarm, a Berlin-based urban farming network, announced a first-of-its-kind partnership in the U.S. that will bring modular living produce farms to Kroger’s QFC stores in Washington state.
The living produce farms will launch this month at two of the 15 stores planned at QFC, at locations in Bellevue and Kirkland. Using hydroponic technology, the produce will grow on site at the participating QFC stores, removing the need for extended transportation and storage and producing a more eco-conscious product. The farms are designed to scale and will provide shoppers the freshest and most sustainable living produce options available.
To produce things to eat thousands of miles away, store them in cold depots and transport them with trucks is so 2000s; the new generation cannot really wrap their heads around it. All the waste that comes with the current production system is immense. Furthermore, there is too much of a carbon footprint to be ecologically logical with the current methodology. All these logistics operations also increase the price of the food, making it difficult for the poor to purchase fresh produce.
That’s why the trends favor local production. In the U.S., sales of fresh herbs and spices are up 6 percent, and greens are up 8 percent, according to Nielsen.
Many shoppers have also shifted their produce shopping away from traditional retailers in favor of farmer’s markets and natural grocers that offer fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
The Finnish decreased their dependence on imported fresh products with vertical gardens. The Finnish growers have opted for a strategic location close enough to metropolitan areas and distribution centers to be able to deliver fresh and local food within a few hours’ drive, but far enough away to have extremely favorable conditions regarding land, energy and labor costs. Thus, they could decrease food prices.
There is great investor demand for ultra-local production as well. According to Techcrunch, Infarm, the Berlin-based startup that has developed vertical farming tech for grocery stores and restaurants, is disclosing $100 million in its Series B investment. The round is led by London VC Atomico and consists of a mix of equity funding and debt financing. Atomico Partner Hiro Tamura will also join Infarm’s board.
Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska, Infarm’s “urban farming” platform claims to be capable of growing anything from herbs, lettuce, other vegetables and even fruit. Its modular farms are placed in a variety of customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves.
The distributed system is designed to be infinitely scalable: You simply add more modules, space permitting, whilst the whole thing is cloud-based, meaning the farms can be monitored and controlled from Infarm’s central control center. It’s this modular, data-driven and distributed approach — a combination of IoT, big data and cloud analytics akin to “farming-as-a-service” — that Infarm says sets it apart from competitors.
So, what we did as mankind was to change our habit of ultra-local production and hundreds of years later re-coined the term as farming as a service after adding some technology to it.
We are a funny species.