Vertical farming is helping bring the farm closer to shops.
As the world’s population grows and the demand for food supplies increases, environmentally friendly farming and animal-rearing practices are needed.
A new sustainable and low-carbon farming method using vertical gardens is a growing trend globally with supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer in the UK and Whole Foods Market in the USA introducing grow-in-store leafy greens. Following on the success of this, South African retailer Pick n Pay has partnered with CAN-Agri – a vertical, hydroponic, greenhouse farm in Pretoria – to launch its own in-store “vertical farms” as a way to showcase and educate shoppers about this approach to farming. The approach uses 95% less water, less fertiliser and no pesticides when compared to growing the same quantity of plants on a piece of land. Click here to explore the process in more detail.
“Doing good is good business,” says Pick n Pay CEO Pieter Boone. “We want to bring innovation and share it with the customers and communities that we serve.”
Liz van Niekerk, Head of Produce and Horticulture at Pick n Pay, says the launch of this initiative hopes to educate consumers, address food waste and incorporate more sustainable practices.
“This is brand new. We’re growing something in a completely different way, which is more environmentally friendly, but it also means less food waste because we are growing something in a way that is super controlled.” Liz says that it excites her to see children coming into the store and being curious, asking what the vertical farms are. “That’s what it’s all about. We have to educate them about where our food comes from.”
Pick n Pay On Nicol in Sandton and Pick n Pay Constantia in Cape Town are the first stores to launch the vertical farms however customers won’t be able to buy the salad leaves directly from the stores. They will simply be a method demonstration of CAN-Agri’s commercial facility, which has 24 rows with 200 “growing stacks” spanning six metres high. While CAN-Agri maximises sunlight from its greenhouse, grow lights will be used in-store as a way to mimic natural light. CAN-Agri will supply a new range of greens to all stores from its farm, which will include different lettuces and herbs such as whole baby butter lettuce heads and cos leaves.
While the Pick n Pay team are working on alternative packaging solutions, the punnets that the leaves come in are made from a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled material. More vertical farms will roll out to other Pick n Pay stores across South Africa in the coming months as the brand continues with the repositioning of its strategy.