Ocado has increased its stake in Scunthorpe-based Jones Food Company, Europe’s largest vertical farm, as coronavirus fuels interest in food grown indoors.
The online grocer now owns about 70pc in the start-up after it became its largest shareholder, with a 58pc stake, in November.
Founder James Lloyd-Jones, who set up the firm three years ago, told The Daily Telegraph that three more sites will go live by the end of next year.
Tim Steiner, Ocado’s co-founder and chief executive, has previously said that he wants Ocado to have vertical farms next to its grocery depots to offer fresh produce that could be delivered to shoppers an hour after being picked.
Ocado does not sell any vegetables from Jones Food on its website yet, but insiders said it was an option should it wish to.
Lloyd-Jones added: “Ocado invested after only 15 months [of existence] because they liked that we developed and implemented [our technology] really quickly.”
Jones Food Company’s warehouse is the largest in Europe, it claims, spanning the size of 26 tennis courts, where it grows leafy greens, predominantly for sandwich makers.
Initially Brexit, and more recently coronavirus, has pushed companies to look at incorporating vertical farming into their supply chains to make them more reliable.
Last month, MPs raised concerns over the UK’s food security following the coronavirus pandemic. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee warned a disorderly Brexit at the end of the year could be an even bigger threat than coronavirus for the supply chain.
Source: The Telegraph