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UNFI to add indoor farms at select distribution centers


Dive Brief:

  • United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) will co-locate Square Roots’ vertical farming technology on-site at select UNFI distribution centers, according to a press release.
  • The first of these indoor farms is set to open in 2023 at UNFI’s facility in Prescott, Wisconsin. That farm will be approximately 20,000 square feet.
  • Indoor and vertical farming is a growing trend among grocers and other food retailers as they continue to seek efficient ways to offer consumers fresh produce.

Dive Insight:

The partnership with Square Roots allows UNFI to continue to expand its Better For All initiative, which aims to foster closer relationships between UNFI and its produce suppliers as well as create a more streamlined supply chain. 

Square Roots’ vertically-integrated indoor farming model can be set up almost anywhere “on a small footprint at quick speed,” the announcement states. The setup creates ideal conditions to grow fresh produce all year — including leafy greens, microgreens and herbs— that is then harvested, packaged and distributed within the Square Roots facility. 

In addition, Square Roots’ farms use less water than traditional field farms and its produce is pesticide-free. The company’s facilities and greens are also Non-GMO Project verified and USDA Harmonized GAP+ Certified, the press release notes.

“Our unique approach to indoor farming is fully optimized to support forward-thinking, large-scale distribution partners like UNFI,” Tobias Peggs, Square Roots co-founder and CEO, said in the announcement. 

With vertical and indoor farming growing in demand among food retailers, Square Roots’ technology has been enlisted beyond UNFI. In late March, URB-E, a last-mile delivery provider, partnered with the indoor farming technology company to deliver Square Roots’ freshly grown and picked greens. 

Walmart invested in the $400 million Series E round by Plenty, another vertical farming company, back in January. In September, Plenty, which has a partnership with Albertsons, announced plans to build what it claims will be the world’s largest indoor farm.

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