Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. and Square Roots have announced a new agreement to locate indoor farms on-site at select UNFI distribution centers.
The first Square Roots farm, about 20,000 square feet in size, is planned for UNFI’s Prescott, Wisconsin, facility and is scheduled to open in 2023.
As part of its “Better For All” initiative, UNFI is focused on building closer relationships with its produce suppliers to build a supply chain network designed to shorten the time it takes to deliver produce to retail customers. Produce from the first Square Roots’ located farm is intended to serve UNFI’s retail customers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro area.
“Today’s consumer is focused on the quality and freshness of their produce and relies on their local grocer to provide consistent access to high quality, locally grown food, all year round that won’t spoil the day after they bring it home,” said Dorn Wenninger, SVP of produce at UNFI.
“Our relationship with Square Roots and their innovative indoor farming model not only strengthens our supply chain and gives back days of freshness to consumers, but also furthers our ambitious ESG initiatives and helps UNFI make progress toward our goals to reduce waste, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and advance sustainable agriculture and operations.”
Square Roots has pioneered a vertically integrated model for indoor farming, and can deploy its modular, cloud-connected farms in any location on a small footprint at quick speed to create optimal conditions to consistently grow fresh produce throughout the year. Crops are also harvested and packed inside the Square Roots facility, ready for distribution to customers the same day of harvest.
“Our approach to indoor farming is fully optimized to support forward-thinking, large-scale distribution partners like UNFI,” said Tobias Peggs, Square Roots co-founder and CEO. “Growing fresh produce in Square Roots farms at UNFI facilities increases supply chain resilience and reduces miles driven transporting food.”
Square Roots farms utilize a hydroponic system to grow a range of leafy greens, microgreens and herbs, using less water and land than conventional field farms. Square Roots produce is pesticide-free and non-GMO project verified. Inside its farms, Square Roots’ farmers use the company’s software to manage every aspect of growing, from planning production tasks to monitoring plant health. All Square Roots farms are USDA Harmonized GAP+ Certified for the highest levels of food safety.
“With this partnership we can now bring local food, grown by local farmers, to UNFI’s network of retail customers, and their shoppers, consistently and reliably, all year round. We can’t wait to get started,” said Kimbal Musk, co-founder and executive chairman, Square Roots.