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  • Marks & Spencer expands urban farming in London

    Marks & Spencer expands urban farming in London

    Marks & Spencer has rolled out vertical farm units in seven stores in London. The British department store chain grows fresh herbs in connected mini-greenhouses.

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    Freshly picked herbs in the department store

    Three months after the trial started in one store, Marks & Spencer is expanding its experiment with vertical indoor farming units to six additional locations in the British capital. From now on, the mini-greenhouses can be found in seven department stores in London, where a selection of herbs such as mint, parsley and coriander are grown on site. This way, customers can buy the herbs minutes after being harvested.

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    After M&S installed the first smart greenhouse in a renovated store last September, the vertical on-site farming has been a much-discussed topic. and M&S Food's image in the neighbourhood has also become 'fresher'. "The farm brings a feeling of real freshness and customers have been keen to discuss its sustainability benefits too", store manager Joe Erskine told Retail Gazette.

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    Remote controlled ecosystem

    Vertical farms use 95?% less water and 75?% less fertiliser than traditional agricultural soils, Infarm claims. That company's technology combines vertical farming units with connected technology and machine learning to create a fully controlled ecosystem where light, air and nutrients are controlled remotely. The cloud platform continuously learns and improves the growing process as it progresses.

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    The decision as to which six new stores will have a greenhouse was also made on the basis of data: M&S has relied on the sales data of fresh herbs in existing London stores to see where demand would be highest.

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