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Ocado Pursues Fresh Approach to Farming

12 June 2019 - 12:29 by David Aiken

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Grocery delivery firm Ocado is pumping money into the relatively new practice of ‘vertical farming’ in an effort to ensure that it can meet growing demand from customers for fresh fruit and vegetables, according to Internet Retailing.

Vertical farming lives up to its name by concentrating large volumes of produce into small, vertically arranged areas. This not only reduces the amount of land which is required to grow essential items but also means that they can be kept closer to the distribution centres that Ocado operates to fulfil orders via safe shopping online.

The first of the vertical farming start-ups that Ocado has invested in hails from Scunthorpe and is already generating a number of herbs using these cutting-edge cultivation techniques.

The second arm of Ocado’s multi-million-pound investment is based in a company that is developing automated robotic systems that will make planting, maintaining and picking produce in this kind of set-up far more efficient.

All of this will not only lower its costs and improve the freshness of the produce that it is able to sell to customers but will also allow Ocado to cut its carbon footprint and make the groceries it sells more sustainable. Vertical farming requires less water than traditional methods, amongst other eco-friendly improvements to the process.

The ultimate aim is to make it possible for produce to go from ‘field’ to fridge in less than an hour in many cases, which would clearly be an impressive feat if it is rendered achievable on a national scale. If Ocado’s investments prove to be fruitful, then it will no doubt spur on other retailers to pursue similar avenues, which could make vertical farming popular across the UK at a much faster rate thanks to the fuel provided by online shopping.