Today, Wednesday 27 March 2019, IKEA Sweden is harvesting and serving its own home-grown lettuce for the first time. Working with Bonbio as its circular farming partner, IKEA is trialling the growth of lettuce in containers outside its department stores in Malmö and Helsingborg. The farming takes place in a circular cycle, with the nutrients being extracted from food waste.
A few weeks back, farming containers were installed outside the department stores in Malmö and Helsingborg. What looks like a conventional shipping container conceals a high-tech growing operation comprising 3,600 lettuce plants in an area of 30 m2. This is a one-year trial in which IKEA is collaborating with Bonbio, an expert in circular farming. The purpose is to learn about how farming containers can help IKEA department stores to serve more sustainable food.
“It is not every day that we have a harvest celebration at IKEA and it is really fun for us to finally be able to serve our own lettuce. It is fresh, crisp and has a bit more taste than regular lettuce. We will start serving the lettuce in our staff canteens, but hope to soon be able to offer it to our customers,” says Ann Holster, responsible for IKEA Sweden’s restaurant operations.
The container has four levels and is full of different sizes of lettuce. The seeds are sown in batches, so there is always lettuce available for harvesting. No pesticides are needed during the growing process because the farming takes place in a closed system.
“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,” says Fredrik Olrog, Managing Director, Bonbio.
Instead of soil, the roots of the lettuce grow in water containing liquid plant nutrients. This is known as hydroponic farming. Nutrition is extracted from organic waste, including food waste from IKEA’s restaurants, at the biogas plant in Helsingborg.
“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,” says Catarina Englund, Global Sustainability Manager, Ingka Group.
Thanks to the hydroponic and vertical farming methods, 90 percent less water is required and less than half of the area needed for conventional farming. Other advantages are that the crops are locally grown and can be harvested all year round regardless of weather and seasons.