Ocado invests £17m to become a leader in vertical farming
Ocado Group, the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer, has signed a memorandum of understanding to partner in a world-class, full-service solution for the challenges and opportunities confronting indoor horticulture and agriculture.
The independent joint venture also includes Netherlands-based Priva Holding BV, a leading provider of technology solutions, services and automation systems to horticultural and other industries, and U.S.-based 80 Acres Farms, a leader in technology-assisted indoor growing and a multi-farm operator marketing a wide variety of freshly-harvested vegetables including vine crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers; leafy greens; and fruits such strawberries.
Infinite Acres’ com is to provide the best technology available to grow the highest quality produce near population centres throughout the world -- including in places where year-round nutritious produce is in short supply due to climate and growing conditions or must be transported considerably long distances. Ocado, based in the United Kingdom, brings to the partnership its Ocado Solutions division, a global technology provider known for innovative software and hardware systems, robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence.
“Our three partner companies provide an unbiased form of collaboration. From concept to consumers’ tables, we bring a unique value proposition to this underserved marketplace,” said Tisha Livingston, CEO of Infinite Acres.
“Infinite Acres believes its integrated solutions will have a considerable impact on the profitability, and competitiveness of food service industry customers everywhere -- growers, distributors, retailers, and governments – who seek the cleanest, healthy, pesticide-free produce for consumers. We look forward to collaborating with other strategic partners that have the same goals for the industry.”
Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado, said: “We believe that our investments today in vertical farming will allow us to address fundamental consumer concerns on freshness and sustainability and build on new technologies that will revolutionise the way customers access fresh produce. Our hope ultimately is to co-locate vertical farms within or next to our Customer Fulfillment Centres and Ocado Zoom’s micro-fulfilment centres so that we can offer the very freshest and most sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customers’ kitchen within an hour of it being picked.”
Meiny Prins, CEO of Priva, said: “Cities are beginning to realise that they need to integrate the production of food into their plans for urban development, to be able to provide healthy and nutritious food for their inhabitants. Infinite Acres provides solutions that support overcoming the challenges of growing fresh produce in an urbanising world by bringing it closer to its consumers.”
Mike Zelkind, Chief Executive of 80 Acres Farms, said: “This is an amazing combination of best of breed companies. Priva and 80 Acres Farms provide extensive horticulture, engineering, operational, and food industry expertise. Along with Ocado’s predictive analytics, automation and comprehensive system development, the partnership will provide its customers with everything from state of the art facilities with uniquely developed crop recipes and the right unit economics to an option for facility management with yield guarantees, product packaging, branding, marketing, and distribution. 80 Acres Farms will offer these options for customers seeking an operating partner.”