US retailer, Target, hopes to launch experimental vertical farms in selected stores in 2017. During recent in-store trials, consumers could harvest their own produce, or observe staff pick greens and vegetables to stock shelves.
In an article published in Business Insider, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, Casey Carl, said that the retailer had identified vertical farms as an important aspect of its supply strategy.
He added that food production was changing rapidly across the world, and the company needed to develop new ways of sourcing food.
“Food is a big part of our current portfolio, [and annually earns] $20 billion [R278 billion] for us.”
Paul Makube, an agricultural economist at First National Bank, said that South Africa’s farmers should take notice of the growing international interest in vertical farming.
“It’s the next big thing to happen in agriculture and will become particularly relevant to high-value crops such as vegetables,” he said. He added, however, that open-field farming was still the most economical production method for crops such as maize or sunflower.
According to Makube, vertical farming could make it possible for more people to farm in South Africa, as large areas of land were not required. While the current drawback was the high cost of technology, Makube said that this would become less significant over time.