Online supermarket Ocado has announced its latest investment in innovation with a ‘vertical farming’ joint venture.
The technique allows companies to produce fresh food indoors with little space, as crops are ‘stacked’ vertically in an environment which simulates that of perfect outdoor conditions.
Ocado has formed a joint venture with vertical farming participants U.S.-based 80 Acres Farms and Netherlands-based Priva Holding.
It has also acquired a 58 per cent stake in Europe’s largest operating vertical farm, Scunthorpe-based Jones Food Company, which produces leafy salads and herbs with the technique.
Together the equity investments will total 17 million pounds.
The online retailer is involved in the set-up of Infinite Acres, a company that will use AI and climate control systems to design infrastructure for environmentally friendly vertical farms.
Shares in Ocado rose 3 per cent in morning trading, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 today.
“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,” said CEO of Ocado Tim Steiner.
“Our hope ultimately is to co-locate vertical farms within or next to our Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) and Ocado Zoom’s microfulfilment centres so that we can offer the very freshest and most sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customer’s kitchen within an hour of it being picked.”
The company is a staunch investor in new technologies. Its fulfilment centres are run in part by robots and in May the company acquired a ready-meal robotics start-up.