Innovation That Matters

Food mile produce | Photo source Pixabay

Belgian supermarket reduces food miles for fresh produce


A Belgian supermarket is creating the shortest supply chain possible by growing produce on its roof and selling it in-store an hour later.

One way to reduce the environmental impact of farming is to reduce food miles. This is the distance that food has to travel as it moves from farm to table. Transportation as a whole represents 11 percent of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. However, delivery from producer to retail contributes to 4 percent of the total transportation emissions.

At Springwise, we have covered a number of innovations aimed at reducing food miles. For example, an in-store garden that lets shoppers pick their own herbs and a shelving unit that allows people to grow vegetables indoors. Now, a supermarket in Brussels is trying to create the shortest food supply chain possible – from its own roof to its shelves. The Boondael branch of the Delhaize supermarket launched the urban farm project in response to growing customer concern about where food is sourced.

The farm produces tomatoes, lettuces and strawberries, and operates year-round using a greenhouse. The products are harvested in the morning and reach store shelves around an hour later. The garden takes up around 320 square meters of rooftop space (3,444 square feet). The produce is technically organic, but won’t receive the organic label as it is not cultivated directly in natural soil. The garden also generates its energy sustainably using solar panels and recovering heat generated by the store below.

The farm does face some challenges. A lack of biodiversity leaves the produce vulnerable to attack from insects. Additionally, weight constraints limit the amount that can be grown. The farm currently produces only a tiny proportion of the supply it needs, but Delhaize hopes that it will serve as a model for expanding the rooftop-to-table project to other stores. In 2016, Brussels launched the Good Food plan, which sets a target of achieving 30 percent of fruit and vegetable production from urban agriculture by 2035. If more supermarkets and other businesses adopted rooftop gardening, that would go a long way towards meeting this goal. What other ways are there to decrease food miles through innovation?



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