You’ve got kale: Grocery chain to sell salad leaves, herbs grown on ‘green wall’

Vertical Field has signed ‘multi-million dollar’ deal with Rami Levy supermarkets to offer customers fresh produce picked from vertical farms

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A Vertical Field container stationed at the Tel Aviv port (Courtesy)
A Vertical Field container stationed at the Tel Aviv port (Courtesy)

Israeli startup Vertical Field has signed an accord with one of Israel’s largest supermarket chains to provide its stores with vertical farm installations, enabling customers to buy freshly grown produce such as lettuce and parsley.

Vertical Field, formerly called GreenWall Israel, said on Sunday that the “multi-million dollar agreement” with Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing 2006, a low-cost supermarket chain, will see the vertical farms installed at locations over the course of five years. The deal will enable the chain to sell produce grown locally, in Vertical Field’s proprietary soil-based container technology.

The startup creates unique vertical plant installations made up of separate blocks of plants that can be rearranged at will. This green wall of vegetation is suitable for growing vegetables in stores, offices and apartment buildings, or anywhere in urban areas, which have little space but many walls.

Produce grows vertically on the container’s walls, and according to the firm, minimizes both water consumption and use of soil. The plants are initially grown on table tops and then planted into walls, where the soil is held via a special method.

The produce sold is grown in a sterile indoor environment without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, the statement said, and in controlled conditions, ensuring product consistency and yield throughout the year with no seasonality or weather effects.

An example of a vertical garden at the Vertical Field (formerly called GreenWall) greenhouse during a tour on March 23, 2016. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

Vertical gardens are part of a worldwide trend looking for ways to marry technology and agriculture in an attempt to feed an ever-expanding global population.

The deal with Rami Levy was signed after a successful pilot was held with the supermarket chain, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The crops, which include lettuce, basil, parsley, kale and mint, will be sold daily, directly to clients after harvest, “at competitive prices,” the statement added.

The walls will be in containers stationed outdoors, on the premises of the supermarkets. Customers will be able to buy the produce on the spot from a seller who will pick the produce from the container and hand it over, with payment happening on the spot.

Customers will also have the option of purchasing the produce with the soil bedding that it was grown in, “allowing the customers to enjoy all the nutritional benefits of a freshly harvested crop and a longer shelf life,” the statement said.

Lettuce and parsley grown by Vertical Field (Courtesy)

The containers are already stationed at Rami Levy stores in Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Modiin, a spokeswoman for Vertical Field said.

The “vertical farm” was developed at the company’s research headquarters in Ra’anana, Israel.

“The portable urban farm that we have developed is designed to be located in indoor and outdoor spaces at supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls, rooftops, and other on-premise locations,” said Guy Elitzur, the CEO of Vertical Field. “Over the past year we conducted a number of successful pilot projects, and installed vertical farms adjacent to supermarkets and restaurants in the United States and Israel.”

This is the first supermarket chain which with the startup has reached an agreement, a spokeswoman said.

“Our customers bought Vertical Field’s produce during the pilot, and returned to purchase more,” said Yafit Attias Levy, VP Marketing at Rami Levy, said in a statement. “Therefore, we have decided to expand the partnership with Vertical Field to additional branches of the supermarket, and to offer fresh, high-quality, and pesticide-free produce in a way that increases shelf-life for our customers.”

Vertical Field was founded by Guy Barness in 2006.

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