METRO Cash & Carry Germany is setting new standards in freshness with a pilot project: Recently, herbs and vegetables have been growing on-site at the METRO wholesale store in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. A high-tech kitchen garden developed by Berlin-based start-up company INFARM makes this possible.
In a project which is unique across Germany, the employees at the METRO wholesale store in Berlin-Friedrichshain are growing various types of herbs and vegetables directly on-site. Basil, and other herbs and vegetables are growing on a thin, nutrient-rich layer of water in a space-saving, vertical growing facility. This type of cultivation, which is termed hydroponics, enables customers to receive the freshest possible goods without any use of pesticides. In addition, METRO’s carbon footprint benefits because of the absence of a transportation route. “The InStore Farming concept shows how we are using innovations to shape tomorrow’s retail and wholesale. We are increasing the benefit for our customers and at the same time conserving resources,” Axel Hluchy, Managing Director of METRO Cash & Carry Germany, explains.
The greenhouse of the future
The vertical cultivation saves space in terms of floor area. In METRO’s Berlin-Friedrichshain store, various types of herbs and vegetables thrive on around five square metres of space. The high-tech facility supplies each individual plant with the optimum amount of nutrients and light. Herbs and vegetables get a more intensive flavour completely naturally. The products are packaged for customers during the growth phase; thus they are harvested just shortly before they are consumed in the kitchen. Frank Niemann, store manager at METRO Berlin-Friedrichshain, says the pilot project is already a success: “Our gastronomy customers in particular are delighted. Harvesting directly in the kitchen enables a unique, full flavour.” The technology for this comes from start-up company INFARM, with which METRO is cooperating. The brains behind INFARM are Guy Galonska, his brother Erez and his brother’s partner Osnat Michaeli. They came to Berlin from Israel in 2012 to implement their ideas for urban micro-gardens. “Quality and choice of fresh products are deciding factors for our customers. The InStore Farming concept gives us an absolutely unique selling point across Germany,” Pierre-Yves Delforge, who is responsible for procurement in the Fruit & Vegetables segment at METRO Cash & Carry Germany, explains.
The pilot project with start-up company INFARM is being monitored intensively by the METRO GROUP’s Business Innovation division. Thus, for more than a year, METRO GROUP has also been promoting other start-up companies for high-tech services in retail and wholesale, gastronomy and the hotel industry with the aim of giving customers added value through innovative and digital services.