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Keep it fresh by picking herbs from Infarm vertical farming units

April 21, 2021

For sustainability-minded shoppers, vertical Infarm farming units inspire year-round with fresh herbs that are 100 per cent local.

What are Infarm vertical farming units?

These Infarm vertical farms are an innovative German invention. They’re specially engineered refrigerators where herbs grow under optimal growing conditions. Their controlled ecosystem is designed to produce plants that taste like they were just picked fresh from your summer garden.

Infarm herbs make sense for those who love to eat local

It doesn’t get much more local than this. Infarm brings urban agriculture right into your neighbourhood grocery store. You can harvest the herbs and lettuces every week. The roots are still attached so customers can take the plants home and pop them in a glass of water on their windowsill. There, they can last for weeks! It’s like a small container garden, but with less commitment.

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In my 33 years of working at Safeway in B.C., I’ve almost never seen customers take selfies in the store. But now, they pose regularly by the shelves of the lettuce, mint, cilantro, basil, and parsley growing in the Infarm vertical farming.  

Inspiring kids to get involved in making family meals

My kids have gotten really into these vertical farms. Though they’re only 7 and 3 years old, they love to come into the store to pick the herbs themselves. Now, when I cook, I’ll say, “Remember those chives you picked out? They’re in tonight’s dinner.” and the kids get so excited.

Most recently, I tried red basil in a stir fry, and my whole family loved it!

It’s the same with families who shop here. I often overhear kids with their parents on their weekly shops say, “Oh look, mom! Look how much this one has grown!” It’s so fun to see them get so excited. And it’s been awesome to hear from parents that their kids are trying new dishes just because they hand-picked one of the ingredients. These farms are basically expanding the foods kids will eat!

What types and flavours of fresh herbs can be found at your local store?

From bona fide chefs to enthusiastic customers, everyone is loving our Infarm herbs so much that it’s been difficult to keep up with the demand. During the pandemic when restaurants were closed, more and more people were looking for ways to make home meals more exciting with fresh, quality ingredients. That really kicked in at Christmas this year. Customers came to us for the best fresh seasonal herbs, like rosemary and sage.

The herb selection varies from store to store, but fresh mint, cilantro, basil and parsley are staples. Soon, we’ll be carrying lemongrass, which is perfect for spring and summer.

Let’s talk about sustainability and Infarm vertical farms

Did you know that the parsley you see on the grocery store shelf might have come from as far away as Israel? That’s a long way to travel to make it to our plates. Compare that with these Infarm lettuces and herbs that are grown on-site. The vertical farms mean we’re cutting back the carbon footprint that comes with cross-continent food transport.

The modular farms optimize light to be as efficient as possible. They also use 95 per cent less water and 75 per cent less fertilizer than soil-based agriculture.

So, it’s not just that the Infarm herbs are nutritious, tasty, and fresh – they help reduce our impact on the planet, too. And they come at a price point that’s comparable to what we already carry! There really are a lot of reasons to try them.

Dinner ideas for kids and adults alike

You’ve got garden-fresh herbs on your windowsill, now all you need are some family-friendly, herb-loving recipes. Here are a few favourites from Safeway to get you started. And yes, they’re sure to please picky eaters!

Lemongrass Chicken with Chickpea Mint Salad
Leafy Herb Salad
Spice-Crusted Steak with Herb & Garlic Potatoes
Herbed Avocado Toast with Poached Egg

Which stores carry Infarm vertical farming units?

Plans are in the works to place farms in stores across seven cities in Canada beginning this spring – in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg.

Here’s where you can find an Infarm garden at Sobeys, Safeway & Thrifty Foods.

as told to OurPart™ in conversation with Jason Purnell, Produce Manager of Shaughnessy Safeway

Sobeys Infarm