Target to test vertical farms in stores
Target is looking to shorten the distance from farm to plate with a planned test of vertical farms, an agricultural technique that involves growing plants and vegetables indoors in climatized conditions.
The initiative, to take place within select U.S. stores, is part of ongoing research and development being pursued by Target’s Food + Future CoLab, a collaboration with the MIT Media Lab and Ideo launched last November that has been exploring urban farming, food transparency and food innovation.
According to Business Insider, tests of the vertical farms could begin in spring 2017. If the trials succeed, Target’s stores will likely be filled with growing leafy greens, the most common stock for vertical farming at present. Potatoes, beetroot and zucchini could potentially be made available as well. MIT could give Target access to ancient seeds for rare tomatoes or peppers.
“Down the road, it’s something where potentially part of our food supply that we have on our shelves is stuff that we’ve grown ourselves,” Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, told Business Insider.
Making use of artificial lights, vertical farming is expected to see a growth spurt in part because food cultivated by farms is being challenged by rapidly increasing urban populations. Besides using less water, taking up less space and being closer to the consumer than traditional farming, vertical farming also addresses demands for healthy food without pesticides and avoids weather risks.
On Oct. 3, key members of Target’s Food + Future CoLab team showed off the project at the South by South Lawn (SXSL) festival at the White House. The technologies showcased included the team’s Open Agriculture lab inside the MIT Media Lab that’s exploring vertical farming and ways climate and other factors affect food production.
“Open Agriculture is about creating more farmers,” said Caleb Harper, principal scientist at the MIT Media Lab. “About two percent of us in the U.S. are farmers today, and the average age is 58, so what’s the next generation look like? They’re gonna be coders, hackers, makers.”
- Target tests vertical farms – Fierce Retail
- Target testing grocery at LA25 stores – Fierce Retail
- Food + Future Innovation Team Showcased Cutting-Edge Technologies at South by South Lawn – Target
- Target plans to test vertical farm ‘in-store growing environments’ in 2017 – Business Insider
- Vertical Farming Market Share to Reach $6.31 billion with 27.5% CAGR Forecast to 2022 – EIN News
- Target experiments with in-store vertical farms – Retail Dive
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Target’s vertical farming test? Do you see more potential benefit to the supply chain or marketing efforts? Is this something other grocers will be doing in the future?