Online supermarket business Ocado has announced a move into food production, with a £17m investment in two vertical farming businesses.
Vertical farming involves growing food indoors in a precisely controlled environment, removing the need for pesticides and fungicides and using less water than conventional farming systems.
The retailer has bought a stake in Jones Food Company (JFC), which is Europe’s largest vertical farm based in Scunthorpe.
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JFC is currently growing leafy greens and herbs for UK customers, operating a 5,000sq m growing facility with 12km of LED lights.
Ocado is also in the process of forming a three-way joint venture with Dutch- and US-based companies, which are both at the forefront of the development of vertical farming systems.
Tim Steiner, Ocado chief executive, said the investments would revolutionise the way that customers accessed fresh produce.
The hope ultimately was to co-locate vertical farms within or next to Ocado’s customer fulfilment centres so that it could offer “the very freshest and sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customer’s kitchen within an hour of it being picked”.