Marks & Spencer (M&S) Food has announced it has partnered with advanced urban farming company Infarm to bring an in-store urban farm-fresh produce range to a select number of M&S London stores.

The in-store urban farm will use Infarm’s vertical farming units to grow a selection of fresh herbs, such as basil, mint, curly parsley and mountain coriander, priced at £1.20 per pack. Starting at its newly re-opened Clapham Junction store, the units will be introduced to a further six London stores by the end of the year, including Brent Cross, Bromley, Ealing Broadway, Kensington, Marble Arch and Stratford.

M&S Food director of food technology Paul Willgoss said: “Infarm’s innovative farming platform is a fantastic example of what can happen when passionate agricultural, food and technology experts work together. We operate as part of a complex global food supply chain and want to understand the emerging technologies that could help provide more sustainable solutions, whilst also delivering fantastic products with exceptional taste, quality and freshness for our customers.”

Infarm’s vertical farming units use Internet of Things (IoT) technology and machine learning to create the optimum environment for fresh produce to grow. Infarm said each in-store farm unit uses 95% less water and 75% less fertiliser than traditional soil-based agriculture and is capable of producing the equivalent of 400 square meters of farmland. This leads to more sustainable use of natural resources and ensures that no pesticides are used.

Infarm co-founder and CEO Erez Galonska said: “London represents many of the sustainability challenges that people will experience in cities over the next several decades.

“By offering produce grown and harvested in the heart of the city, we want to practice a form of agriculture that is resilient, sustainable and beneficial to our planet while meeting the needs of urban communities – first in London, and in the future, cities across the United Kingdom.”

M&S said that the partnership will be supported by the construction of a chain of Infarm distribution centres in and around London. The centres will provide the seedlings for each unit, which will go on to be grown in-store. The seedlings will then be harvested and planted at least twice a week by Infarm’s farmers.

Urban farming continues to gain popularity in UK

Urban farming, also known as vertical farming, has continued to become a popular way for retailers to offer fresh produce to consumers while improving sustainability.

In June this year, UK-based online supermarket company Ocado invested in two vertical farming companies, Jones Food Company, and 80 Acres Farms and Priva Holding.