US container farm manufacturer Freight Farms has built and opened a new container farm at a Swedish supermarket through their Scandinavian distributor Futufarm. Located in Halmstad Sweden, Freight Farms customer ICA Maxi Högskolan is one of ICA Gruppen's 1,300 grocery stores in the country. This month, the store began harvesting a range of hydroponically-grown greens for shoppers from the 'Leafy Green Machine' container farm, bringing the number of Freight Farms' container farms in Sweden to three.
"We're excited to be the first ICA Maxi store to implement an onsite farm," said Rikard Hillarp, owner ICA Maxi Högskolan. "By growing crops just steps from our shelves, we're able to offer our customers what are truly the freshest greens possible."
On March 29, the group kicked off its launch with a Harvest Festival for customers, selling produce and offering free samples of the newly-harvested greens and a Q&A with store employees Max Rydberg and Douglas Klang, now the newest onsite farmers.
ICA Maxi Freight Farm exterior
Transport to the store and capacity
The Leafy Green Machine destined for the Swedish supermarket began life in the United States where it was built by Freight Farms in Massachusetts. It was trucked to New York City from where it was shipped to Europe, before making its journey to the ICA Maxi store by truck and placed into position by a crane. The company says this farm can produce up to two acres worth of produce.
"Freight Farms' containerized farming technology allows ICA Maxi Högskolan to create and maintain the optimal growing conditions to harvest produce year-round using less than 5 gallons of water per day," Freight Farms said in a release. "Beyond the store's initial offering of butterhead lettuce, spinach, and herbs, the farm's integrated IoT data platform, farmhand, will also allow the store to grow non-native crops otherwise unavailable in the region, regardless of seasonal limitations in Sweden's Nordic climate."
ICA Maxi Högskolan is Freight Farms' third container farm in Sweden, and the company said there is anticipation to scale.
ICA Maxi store employees
Scandinavia ideal setting for container farms
With winters being rather cold and offering limited daylight, Scandinavia is restricted in what it can produce locally, especially outside the summer months. Freight Farms also noted that consumers in the region are known for their penchant for sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to a range of situations. In fact, IKEA made an announcement last month, stating that it would begin growing lettuce on site for its staff soon, suggesting that it may later sell it to paying customers if all goes well. However, this trial is only for lettuce and ICA Maxi's new farm is fully operations and consists of several varieties which are all available to customers. Therefore, Freight Farms wants to highlight the benefits of having food grown locally.
"Freight Farms' technology is especially helpful in Sweden, where our short growing seasons can limit crop availability throughout the year and increase our reliance on imported produce," added Hillarp. "We're now able to shorten the distance food travels to get to our customers from 2,000 kilometers to just 30 meters."
Max Rydberg and Douglas Klang - the new "onsite farmers"
Futufarm's Chairman, Harrie Rademaekers, noted that the potential for container farms in Nordic countries is great, pointing out that much of the produce consumed in the region originates from overseas. "Even though we have access to greens all year round, only 50 percent of the crops we consume are grown in the region," he observed. "In general we are very dependent on imported crops from Holland and Spain, which is not very sustainable. Nordic consumers are very focused on locally-grown and this fact builds a strong case for local container farms serving local food stores, restaurants, hotels, schools and so forth. Our climate is changing and water supplies are becoming more precious, which will force us to find new methods of farming. Food tech solutions will helps us, and in this case, Freight Farms' hydroponic technology can provide a climate-controlled farming solution that helps us save 95 percent more water than traditional agriculture."
Some leafy greens produced in the container farm
"By removing the miles between the food source and consumers, produce maintains nutrient density and stays fresh for far longer, significantly reducing food waste for both retailers and consumers," said Freight Farms' CEO Brad McNamara.
"Our team innovated the technology to empower individuals and businesses all over the world to decentralize the food system in meaningful ways specific to their local community or environment," he concluded. "We're thrilled to work with industry leaders like Rikard Hillarp and retailers like ICA Maxi, who together have the forward-thinking vision and reach to disrupt the grocery industry internationally."
For more information: