Source: Harvest London

Vertical farming firm Harvest London has struck a deal with Planet Organic which will see its branded living basil supplied to the retailer’s stores across the capital.

Harvest London said the supermarket would be the only one to sell vertically farmed and living herbs in this way.

Infarm had supplied vertical farmed herbs to several supermarkets including M&S, Selfridges and Whole Foods, but is understood to have ended operations in the UK in January. Late last year Infarm announced it was halving its global workforce as part of a “significant strategy shift” and bid to reach profitability, a move which included a “downsizing” in the UK.

This makes Planet Organic the only UK supermarket to currently sell living herbs farmed and branded in this way.

The herbs are grown in Harvest London’s facility in Leyton, east London, and delivered from farm to store “in a matter of hours” by bike or electric van.

The product is sold in paper cones, with guidance provided on maximising the life of the plant. The herbs are kept in wooden boxes on shelf, which are freshly watered.

“We’ve always sought out partners who see the potential of our farming technique to tackle the problems in the food system, and being stocked by a respected brand like Planet Organic is a big step forward for us,” said Matt Walton, commercial director at Harvest London.

“If vertical farming is going to have the positive impact we know it can, we need to get as many people eating our produce as possible. Being available in store is a great chance to tell customers about the benefits of this new way of growing,” he added.

The deal is Harvest London’s first major retail partnership. It is currently working with chain Pizza Pilgrims and foodservice firm Compass Group.

“At Planet Organic we are continually discovering new, innovative products that offer better options for our customers,” said Lotty Lacey, fresh food and drinks buyer at Planet Organic.

“We’re proud to launch our first hydroponically-grown produce, choosing to work with Harvest based upon their unique sustainability credentials and zero-pesticide policy. Not only have Harvest enabled us to stock locally grown basil year-round, significantly reducing food miles, they also reduce our packaging by replacing plastic bags with paper cones,” she added.

The vertical farm operator – which was founded in 2017 and launched its first proof-of-concept farm, in Walthamstow the following year – also announced it had signed a lease on a 140,000 sq ft property in Beddington, south London, to develop a new farm.

Harvest_London Beddington farm

Source: Harvest London

The new 15-metre-tall farm comes after Harvest London secured the backing of sustainability-led investment manager Foresight Group.

Harvest London said it aims to “build a network of data-driven vertical farms, transforming the sustainability of food in our cities”.

“While you might not yet have tasted something grown in a vertical farm, in the future this type of produce is going to be on your menu, whether that’s from a supermarket, in prepared food, or eating out,” said Chris Davies, founder of Harvest London.

“Vertical farming is a technology that can complement British agriculture, helping us reduce our reliance on food imports, and give consumers fresher, more local ingredients. We want to make the UK a world-leader in this exciting new industry,” he added.