Starting in the spring of 2017, Target plans to test out a new agricultural technique that will potentially bring the “farm-to-table” movement to a whole new level.
Target’s Food + Future CoLab has been exploring the idea of urban farming since last November, and they are now planning to build their own vertical farms. This technique involves growing plants and vegetables in climate-controlled indoor facilities.
Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, told Business Insider that they intend to fill their stores with fresh produce.
“Down the road, it’s something where potentially part of our food supply that we have on our shelves is stuff that we’ve grown ourselves.”
Vertical farming, experts believe, will soon see a massive growth spurt as urban populations grow and consumers become more conscious about where and how their food is produced.
This farming technique uses less water, takes up less space, avoids weather-related risks, rejects the use of pesticides, and shortens the distance between the farmers and the consumers.
“Vertical farming is genius,” commented Jasmine Glasheen, publishing editor of Off-Price Retailing Magazine. “Vertical farms are more resistant to climate changes and storms. Plus the holistic aesthetic of an organic vertical farm will allow Target to compete for natural foods customers.”
One has to wonder how this will affect business for the already-established natural farms. There are currently about 2,102,010 farms in the U.S., totaling to roughly 920 million acres of farmland across the country. If agriculture is eventually brought indoors and streamlined in the form of vertical farms, will this put millions of farmers out of work?
Of course, this shift would take decades to fully accomplish, but if Target’s indoor farming ends up as popular as the retail industry predicts it to be, vertical farming could be the revolution few people saw coming.
On the other hand, some industry experts are skeptical. Peter Sobotta, founder and CEO of Return Logic has had his doubts that something of this magnitude could be pulled off successfully in this day and age.
“Good for marketing and PR, but the scalability, execution and ultimate the ROI may prove to be a significant challenge,” he said.
President of Humetrics Mel Kleinman noted that vertical farming is nothing new.
“Fiesta Supermarket built a store in Houston more than 30 years ago with a vertical garden,” he said. “It looked great, got a lot of attention and cost a lot of money. Five years after they opened that store the garden was gone.”
Regardless, Target is moving forward with their in-house vertical farming initiative, which is expected to be up and running this coming spring.