From vertical forests, to vertical farms: urban agriculture seems to be on the rise in many of the world’s biggest cities. In Berlin, one particular startup is intending to bring the farm into the modern supermarket. Infarm’s range of hydroponic, modular planting systems will allow shops to grow, harvest and sell fresh produce on the spot: giving customers the option to hand-pick their vegetables while reducing food mileage.
Infarm’s entire range is designed to be both sustainable and profitable. First, the modular system means the mini vertical farms can be stacked according to space requirements, and can be integrated into most existing infrastructure. The farms are also hydroponic and app-controlled; drastically reducing the amount of water, energy and fertilizer needed. And most importantly, vertical farms close the distance between where food is produced and where it is consumed. This means erasing the need for transportation, storage, and refrigeration – and its emissions.
Farming as a service
Bringing the farm to the produce aisle also appeals to the consumer, and the growing demand for local and transparent food production. “It really engages people,” says Erez Galonska, the start-up’s founder and CEO. “You’re used to having kind of a boring experience in the grocery store. You come and get your things. But here you see a farm… We call this farming as a service.” Indeed, it’s a movement we’ve been seeing everywhere: people are looking to be reconnected with their food.
The ultimate aim, Galonska says, is to democratise the growing technology: to provide units that can be scaled up as well as scaled down. “Anyone [shops, restaurants, schools and hospitals] should be able to have their own farm, and grow their own food. The first ones to do it are obviously the early adopter types but, in principle, there is no reason for it not to become a standard.”
Today, the Infarm system has already been implemented in a pilot project in Berlin’s Metro Cash & Carry supermarket. These first units are currently growing herbs and vegetables which Infarm says will be available at a price comparable to Metro’s other fresh produce. By the end of the year, Infarm plans to take its products to the global market.
Food production and climate change
Do you have an idea that could redesign the way we grow our food? The WDCD Climate Action Challenge is looking for projects to support that can help us adapt to the impacts of climate change. Food production is one of the 5 key topics of the challenge; and we need initiatives like Infarm to move beyond serving a niche group of people and make a real impact on the global food system. The call for participation is open til September 24 – learn more at challenge.whatdesigncando.com!
All photos: Infarm