UNFI Brings Indoor Farming to Distribution Centers

UNFI will bring Square Roots' farming facilities inside select distribution centers, growing produce that will be sent to grocery stores.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Square Roots UNFI

Grocery wholesaler and distributor United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is getting in on vertical farming. Partnering with Square Roots, UNFI will co-locate indoor farms on-site at select distribution centers.

Produce from the Square Roots co-located farms will be provided to UNFI’s banner stores for consumers to purchase. The first UNFI/Square Roots farm is approximately 20,000 square feet and will be located at UNFI's Prescott, Wis. facility. Slated to be open next year, the produce grown there will serve customers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“Today’s consumer is focused on the quality and freshness of their produce and relies on their local grocer to provide consistent access to high quality, locally grown food, all year round that won’t spoil the day after they bring it home,” said Dorn Wenninger, senior vice president of Produce at UNFI. “Our relationship with Square Roots and their innovative indoor farming model not only strengthens our supply chain and gives back days of freshness to consumers, but also furthers our ambitious ESG initiatives and helps UNFI make progress toward our goals to reduce waste, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and advance sustainable agriculture and operations.”

With produce sold at several other retailers, Square Roots uses a hydroponic system to grow a wide range of leafy greens, microgreens and herbs, using less water and land than conventional field farms. Square Roots’ farmers use the company’s proprietary software to manage every aspect of growing the non-GMO, pesticide-free plants, from planning production tasks to monitoring plant health.

"Our unique approach to indoor farming is fully optimized to support forward-thinking, large-scale distribution partners like UNFI,” said Square Roots co-founder and CEO Tobias Peggs. “Growing delicious fresh produce in Square Roots farms at UNFI facilities increases supply chain resilience and reduces miles driven transporting food. It’s good business, and it’s also better for people and the planet.”

UNFI delivers fresh, branded, and private label products to more than 30,000 banner locations across North America.