Kroger brings the farm closer to the table
Grocery shoppers won’t have to make a special trip to the farmers market to get in-season fruits and vegetables right off the farm if Kroger’s new pilot works out. This month, the grocer is beginning an experiment with in-store produce farms.
The pilot, which is being conducted in conjunction with German start-up Infarm, will begin with two Kroger-owned QFC (Quality Food Centers) locations in Washington State with plans to roll out to 15 of the sub-brand’s locations, according to Supermarket News. The on-site, modular farms are hydroponic and built for scalability. Outside the U.S., Infarm already has 500 farms and has partnered with more than 25 major retailers.
Locally grown, farm fresh foods, organics and farm-to-table restaurants have grown popular in recent years, alongside an increased interest in healthy eating and a societal focus on environmental sustainability. The popularity of these products has influenced where consumers shop; in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that there had been a 76 percent increase in the number of farmers markets nationwide since 2008.
Vegetables grown in-store might not only meet customer demands for fresh produce, but cut down on energy expenditure, fuel usage and other costs associated with packing up and shipping produce from farms. The practice could theoretically also reduce the price paid by the consumer.
Other U.S. grocers besides Kroger have discussed possible experimentation with growing produce in-store. In late 2016, for example, Target announced an intent to pilot its own vertical farming initiative that would allow stores to grow leafy greens, potatoes and other vegetables in stores and bring them directly to shelves.
Urban agriculture in general has expanded 30 percent in the past 30 years, according to a study cited on Phys.org.
A recent article from The Washington Post referred to indoor urban farming as “the next big thing,” while noting that some challenges such as technological costs, real estate costs, farm subsidies and a repeal of Obama-era regulations promoting the use of energy-efficient LED lighting.
- Kroger to offer in-store living produce farms – Supermarket News
- How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities – Phys.org
- Indoor farming looks like it could be the answer to feeding a hot and hungry planet. It’s not that easy – Washington Post
- Demand grows for farmers’ markets – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could you see in-store farms scaling across the country chain-wide for Kroger? What operational burdens might grocers have to consider before attempting this type of operation and how might it change relationships with produce suppliers?