Eco-Friendly Shopping: Target to Build Indoor Vertical Farms Inside Its Stores
The demand for locally grown produce is increasing, and Target is just about to give consumers what they want.
Target, one of the biggest retailers in the country, is planning to install vertical farms that would grow fresh vegetables inside its stores. The company will start a series of trials in the spring of 2017, and if successful, Target's stores will start using these vertical gardens.
"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, chief strategy and innovation officer at Target, told Business Insider.
The plan is part of the Food + Future CoLab initiative, which is a collaboration with design company Ideo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab launched in January of this year. One of CoLab's research focuses is vertical farming, and according to the company, the technology for the vertical farms will be tested in some Target stores to observe how customers will respond to it.
During the trials next year, customers could either harvest their own produce from the store's vertical farms or watch a staff member pick the vegetables to stock on the shelves.
Vertical farming is an agricultural technique that involves growing plants indoors under climatized conditions. This type of farming method is expected to grow because of the demand from urban populations, Forbes reports. Aside from using less amount of water, the vertical farms take up less space and are more accessible to consumers. The method also avoids the use of pesticides and is less affected by weather risks.
While vertical farming is commonly used to grow leafy greens, CoLab researchers are finding a way to use it to grow other crops as well. The stores' vertical farms will be filled with green leafy vegetables, but researchers are also working to stock potatoes, beetroot, and zucchini as well.
"Because it's MIT, they have access to some of these seed banks around the world so we're playing with ancient varietals of different things, like tomatoes that haven't been grown in over a century, different kinds of peppers, things like that, just to see if it's possible," Greg Shewmaker, one of Target's entrepreneurs-in-residence, said in the same statement.