UK – Marks & Spencer is partnering with urban farming platform infarm to deliver a range of fresh produce grown and harvested in some of its stores.

The retailer in planning to launch the first in store vertical farming in a newly reopened South West London store and subsequently roll out the model to a further six stores by the end of the year.

According to the retailer, each in-store farm unit uses 95 percent less water and 75 percent less fertilizer than traditional soil-based agriculture and is capable of producing the equivalent of 400 square meters of farmland.

M&S claims that this results in a more sustainable use of natural resources and ensures zero pesticide use. 

Infarm’s farming technology combines highly efficient vertical farming units with the latest Internet of Things (IOT) technologies and machine learning to deliver a controlled ecosystem with the optimum amount of light, air and nutrients.

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.

“Infarm’s innovative farming platform is a fantastic example of what can happen when passionate agricultural, food and technology experts work together,” says Paul Willgoss, Director of Food Technology, M&S Food.

“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, while also delivering fantastic products with exceptional taste, quality and freshness.”

Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of infarm adds that 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.

This is also while meeting the needs of urban communities – first in London, and in the future, in cities across the UK,” Galonska says. 

M&S is the first UK retailer to work with infarm and the partnership will be supported by the construction of a series of infarm distribution centers in and around 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.

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.

Infarm currently operates across Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the UK, where it has deployed more than 500 farms in stores and distribution centers.