Fresh produce industry is on the way up
Friday, October 28, 2016
Increasing health awareness has paved the way for increasing demand for fresh produce. Most of us believe what we buy from our local grocery store is "fresh produce," but there is a bit of difference — and we are slowly becoming aware of it.
More consumers are looking for locally grown fruits and vegetables without the extra refrigeration and added preservatives. The journey from the farm to the table has been a long and convoluted one for years. But the innovative concept of vertical farming offers the latest attempt to bridge the gap by reducing as many middlemen as possible.
Across the country, we can see the shift in ideology — from convenient to fresh. Consumers want natural, organic, fresh and healthy even with their busy lifestyles and fixed budgets. Stores like Target are catching on quickly and introducing vertical farming.
What does that mean? Well, soon you may witness firsthand, buying fresh veggies that have been grown in a Target store. Not really known for their fresh vegetables, this may be a game changer for the Minneapolis-based discount retailer, which has partnered with Food + Future coLAB to install advanced in-house vertical farming systems at several locations.
Whole Foods Market has already become a big name in vertical on-site farming with a 20,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse inside its Brooklyn store. IKEA is closely following this lead with its in-store farming — but in this case, the herbs and veggies are incorporated into famous IKEA menu items.
One of the best experiments to bridge the fresh produce gap has been conducted by the farmers themselves in Coal Country, West Virginia. A recent NPR story highlighted how two farmers are working hard to provide healthy food and keep wealth in a community that has seen the worst recession ever.
Innovation is the middle name of the project, which uses hydroponic towers to grow better and more produce. This farming method (hydroponics) is being heralded as the new-age solution to food insecurity.
Water and nutrients flood the roots, and vegetables sprout from tiny holes, without any dirt involved. The vertical growth structure of the hydroponic garden allows farmers to produce a lot of food, compared to on the ground, yet take up very little space.
"So like for right here I can grow 44 plants, whereas somebody growing in the ground can only grow four," farmer Joel McKinney told NPR. "So I want to do as much vertical space as I can and really amaze people with the poundage of food, because I'm growing up instead of out."
When it is such a revolutionary idea, it is no surprise that a hydroponic vertical farm has become such a rage in the farthest corners of the country as well. Alaska Natural Organics, which provides fresh, locally grown produce to many local Alaskan restaurants, now has Smith's hydroponic vertical farm located inside the premises.
This urban indoor farm will now offer locals fresh produce round the year, even when harsh winter sets in. Their dependency on imports will decrease, it will help sustain local farmers and increase the nutrition value of foods.
From retailers to farmers, the fresh produce industry is changing rapidly. And it's clear that things are on the way up.
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