IKEA Sweden is harvesting and serving greens grown right outside its department stores in Malmö and Helsingborg.
What appears to be standard shipping containers outside the store are actually high-tech hydroponic farms developed by Swedish circular farming company Bonbio. The 30 square meter growing operation conceals 3,600 lettuce plants grown on four levels without soil or pesticides — the closed system eliminates the need.
Instead, the produce takes root in water containing plant nutrients that come from IKEA restaurant food waste and Bonbio’s plant in Helsingborg. Seeds are sown in batches, so there’s always fresh lettuce available — approximately 18 kilos daily and 5 tons annually.
“Our horticulturists set all the important parameters needed for optimal growth of the lettuce, such as temperature, light, water, nutrition and carbon dioxide content. The first weeks of farming have gone very well,” said Fredrik Olrog, managing director at Bonbio, in a statement.
The greens are currently being served in staff canteens, but IKEA hopes that it will eventually be able to offer it in its on-site restaurants.
“By 2030, we at IKEA will be climate positive. Since the production of food accounts for a large proportion of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, we need to find new solutions for growing food in a more sustainable way. This trial growing lettuce in containers is a part of this,” said Catarina Englund, global sustainability manager at Ingka Group, the holding company that controls the majority of IKEA stores.
IKEA and Sustainability
Adopting sustainable practices is one of IKEA’s core tenants. The company uses sustainable packaging developed by Ecovative, regularly introduces new vegan food options, and aims to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Its partnership with Bonbio will not only help it cut back on carbon emissions from transport trucks and reduce food waste, but it will also use fewer resources.
The process uses 90 percent less water, less than half the space of conventional farming, and eliminates the need to transport greens from outside farms. Because the space is enclosed, IKEA can grow produce all year round. Red and blue LED lights replace the sun.
IKEA will trial with Bonbio for one year.