I find it interesting that Kroger grocery is adding in-store hydroponics to grow selected produce in the store.
This system is basically a larger size (but not by much) growing fewer types of plants, but very similar to what I want to make. I’m not decided yet on start it here and now, or wait for Florida. The idea of just having my own cabinet of greens & bulbs & herbs & such is just an attractive idea.
Here’s the story:
Kroger to Introduce Hydroponic Farms in Stores
By Abby Kleckler – 11/19/2019
The Kroger Co. is taking farm-to-table to a whole new level as it partners with European urban farming network Infarm. Modular living-produce farms installed in stores will provide customers with hydroponic produce right at the point of purchase.
The produce will grow on site at the participating locations to provide customers with fresh, sustainable produce options that don’t have to be transported or stored once ready to eat.
Kroger plans to add the growing systems to 15 QFC banners, with the first two launching this month in Bellevue and Kirkland, Wash.
“Kroger believes that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable and delicious food, no matter who you are, how you shop or what you like to eat,” said Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group VP of fresh and keynote speaker at Progressive Grocer’s recent 2019 Top Women in Grocery event. “Our partnership with Infarm allows us to innovate by combining ground-breaking in-store farming technology with our passion for fresh, local produce and ecological sourcing. Kroger is excited to be first to market and offer the best of the season, and we’re proud to lead the U.S. on this journey.”
The hydroponic produce grown in the modular farms can vary — with nearly 30 options mentioned by Berlin-based Infarm — but some examples include basil, thyme, dill, lettuce, parsley and mint. The farms are controlled remotely through a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to continue improving the system.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,769 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.
Watch for more of this over time. Especially as weather gets colder and crop issues increase.
Here is the Infarm site:
Our farm is your neighbourhood
Our infarms are modular and can stack to fit any given space. You’ll find them in supermarkets, restaurants and distribution centers, where the produce is harvested and offered fresh, living and full of flavor, right in your neighborhood.
We remotely control all infarms through our cloud-based farming platform, that learns, adjusts and improves itself continuously, so each plant grows better than the one before.
Inspired by nature, grown with love
Each infarm is a controlled ecosystem with the perfect amount of light, air & nutrients. An optimal set of conditions that enables our plants to express their natural tastiness to the fullest.
By recreating different growing environments from around the world, we are growing plants previously too delicate, rare or expensive to survive the long journey to your plate.
Interesting photos at their site too.
Kroger is having a bit of a problem maintaining their position.
WSJ Nov. 21st
Kroger Dials Back Overhaul as Sales Sputter
Supermarket chain lost ground while making investments in stores and tech.
Also facing new discounters including Aldi and Lidl.
A new marketing campaign and some operational changes are meant to put the focus back on driving up sales of the groceries that generate about 75% of its sales.
Adding in-store hydroponics seems to fit this new emphasis.
Mom was way ahead of her time with the Sweet Potato in a jar on the kitchen window.
Farming is different than stocking shelves. Will employees perform the required tasks properly (you can’t load water and nutrient reservoirs remotely)? Will consumers pawing over the stock degrade it? Will it be profitable? Lots of questions.
Herbs: small volume but good margins esp. if no wastage.
Celery: sold by the stalk often, so suitable.
Lettuce & other ‘green’ leaf types: Will they sell the whole plant or just cut leaves?
Computer controlled from elsewhere ? Our local supermarkets have all installed generators because of unreliable supply. Even a small suburban market can loose $10,000 stock when the freezer warms. Who will prepare feed? I assume liquid components A & B and a (small) bulk tank out the back.
But brightly lit cabinets would draw the customers.
some local coverage https://mynorthwest.com/1616382/qfc-kroger-infarm-produce/
QFC is a very attractive and well laid out store, but more upscale than the Kroger Fred Meyer brand, with which it competes in the same area. Looks like Kroger sees the affluent areas as the market for this.
FWIW, my hydroponic trays were ignored for a week or 2 at a time without issues.
What I did do could largely be automated. Keep water level up. Add stock nutrient when not enough total electrolite. Adjust pH (which I never really needed to do). Indoors, lights on timers.
The manual bits would be loading starts in trays and harvesting. Even that can be party automated and is mechanically simple.
That could be easily contracted out, much like the office plant services. Someone with a green thumb has a route of 6 or 8 stores and drops in every day or two check on the veggies and place new starter sprouts when they are ready.
The company Kroger uses talked about their cloud service based automation. That leads me to believe they have automated light control, pH adjustment, nutrient management, etc. Water level can just be a float valve. The pH is adjusted with 2 simple chemicals so trivial to make a system to read the pH sensor and adjust one shot per day. There are also total dissolved solids (electrolite or nutrient ) sensors for cheap, then another one shot adjustment calculation.
I’d further speculate that the vendor provides a standard tray of media that is preseeded. (Standard rockwool cubes). Their web site lists the plant choices they sell. A store employee would put it in a nursery box in the stocking area. A couple of weeks later, it gets moved to the sales floor system when a flat there is empty. Once a week or so someone tops up the 3 chemical tubs in each system ( pH up / down, and nutrient). Once every long time the thing is emptied and cleaned then reloaded.
You could even automate the inventory management to reorder trays seeded with just what is selling. Empty trays returned for refill at each new delivery. Then the store employees have very simple jobs to do, similar to other stocking jobs. Fill 3 bins. Move trays. Clean the cabinet.
FWIW lots of greens are already hydroponic. Lettuce in particular does very well. I’ve seen “roots on” displays of fresh live herbs even at discount stores (Smart & Final) and hydroponic Butter Lettuce is devine.. So I know this stuff sells.