Ocado is investing £17m in advanced indoor farming in a bid to become a 'leader' in the newly emerging industry.
The online grocery firm has completed its acquisition of a 58% stake in Jones Food, Europe’s largest operating vertical farm, based in Scunthorpe.
JFC’s facility is currently producing leafy greens and herbs for UK customers with its capacity expected to grow to 420 tonnes per annum.
With more than 5,000 square metres of production area and 12 kilometres of LED lights, JFC has the ability to produce consistent crop yields throughout the year.
Vertical farming involves the production of food in indoor facilities where crops are grown on a series of levels in a precisely-controlled environment.
There are sustainability advantages of vertical farming including low wastage, very low water use, minimal land use and no chemicals.
From a consumer’s perspective, vertical farming offers products all year round, virtually untouched by human hands.
The extreme density of vertical farms allows them to be placed closer to customers, potentially co-located next to fulfilment centres and supermarkets.
Ocado’s investment also includes the formation of a new joint venture – Infinite Acres – between US business 80 Acres Farms and Dutch company Priva, both participants in the vertical farming industry.
The specialist companies have been working together for over 4 years to design turnkey solutions to sell to vertical farming clients worldwide, with forecast revenues in 2019 of over $10m.
Tim Steiner, Ocado's CEO, said: “We believe that our investments in vertical farming will allow us to address fundamental consumer concerns on freshness and sustainability and build on new technologies that will revolutionise the way customers access fresh produce.
“Our hope ultimately is to co-locate vertical farms within or next to our CFCs and microfulfilment centres so that we can offer the very freshest and most sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customer’s kitchen within an hour of it being picked”.