Grocery retailer Kroger is partnering with Berlin farming startup Infarm to offer “living produce farms,” Kroger announced in a press release on Tuesday (Nov. 19).
This is the vertical farming company’s first venture into the U.S. market, but it already has more than 500 farms globally and has teamed with 25 major food retailers in the U.K. and Europe. Infarm will launch this month at two of Kroger’s 15 Washington state supermarkets.
The farms use hydroponic technology to grow produce in modular vertical spaces, and can be installed in stores and restaurants.
Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group vice-president of fresh merchandising, said the partnership with Infarm combines “groundbreaking in-store farming technology with our passion for fresh, local produce and ecological sourcing.”
The farms are remotely controlled through Infarm’s cloud-based platform, which “learns, adjusts and improves itself continuously,” according to its website.
Infarm was founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska. The company used machine learning and intelligence of things (IoT) technology to develop vertical farms as an alternative food system.
The startup raised $100 million earlier this year in a Series B round with investors that included Skype founder Niklas Zennström’s investment firm Atomico as well as Balderton Capital, Bloomberg reported.
There has been an increase in investments in innovative farming methods. In the first half of this year, U.S. startups in the sector raised $140 million. Square Roots in Brooklyn, New York, for example, uses converted shipping containers to build farms. The startup recently partnered with Grand Rapids, Michigan to bring the system to food distributor Gordon Food Service. Indoor vertical farming company Plenty raised $200 million in a 2017 Series B round that included investments from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Meanwhile, Mastercard and Rabobank announced a partnership in September to offer a digital platform to one million farmers in emerging markets. The product, which builds on the Mastercard Farmer Network, aims to make it easier for farmers to sell produce. Rabobank’s “Banking for Food” vision reaches agricultural regions in Europe, Africa and Asia.