UNFI adds indoor farms in select distribution centers

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diving letter:

  • United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) will house Square Roots’ vertical farming technology on-site at select UNFI distribution centers, according to a news release Thursday.
  • The first of these indoor farms is scheduled to open in 2023 at the UNFI facility in Prescott, Wisconsin. This farm will be approximately 20,000 square feet.
  • Indoor and vertical farming is a growing trend among grocers and other food retailers who continue to look for efficient ways to bring fresh produce to consumers.

Dive insight:

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

Square Roots’ vertically integrated indoor farming model can be set up almost anywhere “with a small footprint and high speed,” according to the announcement. The facility creates ideal conditions for growing year-round fresh produce – including leafy greens, microgreens and herbs – which is then harvested, bagged and distributed within the Square Roots facility.

In addition, Square Roots farms use less water than traditional field farms and their produce is free of pesticides. The company’s facilities and green spaces are also Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA-harmonized GAP+ certified, the press release states.

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

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

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

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