One of the world's most advanced urban farming platforms is to harvest and deliver produce to Marks and Spencer's London stores.
The retailer is partnering with infarm, which combines vertical farming units with the latest IOT technologies and machine learning.
Each in-store farm unit uses 95% less water and 75% less fertiliser than traditional soil-based agriculture.
The vertical farming units are capable of producing the equivalent of 400 square meters of farmland, resulting in a more sustainable use of natural resources and ensuring zero pesticide use.
The platforms are now growing a range of fresh herbs for the retailer's Clapham Junction store.
By the end of the year, six more London stores will be served by the units.
The agri-tech company uses a controlled eco-system with the optimum amount of light, air and nutrients to grow its produce.
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 one.
Paul Willgoss, Director of Food Technology at M&S Food, said “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 products with taste, quality and freshness.”
M&S is the first UK retailer to work with infarm and the partnership will be supported by the construction of a series of distribution centres in 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.
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of infarm added: “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.”
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.
It currently operates across Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom where it has deployed more than 500 farms in stores and distribution centres.