MINNEAPOLIS – Black-led by the nonprofit organization Pillsbury United Communities (PUC), the grocery store North Market has installed a hydroponic vertical container farm from Freight Farms onsite.  

Built in an upcycled shipping container and controlled by a data-driven IoT platform called farmhand, the 320-square-foot farm is located in the retailer’s parking lot.  

Regardless of the season, it will provide the market’s community with fresh produce (all pesticide- and herbicide-free) year-round. Growing at commercial volume, the farm uses less than 5 gallons of water a day. 

North Market will start by harvesting 11 flavorful crops: three varieties of mini compact romaine lettuces, green oakleaf, basil, Thai basil, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, sage, and mint.  

“At Pillsbury United Communities, our mission is to co-create enduring change toward a just society in which every person has personal, social, and economic power,” said Kim Pepper, chief engagement officer of PUC. “The closed-loop food ecosystem we have built around North Market is one of the ways we are working to realize this vision. Greens grown onsite in the Freight Farm are sold at North Market ensuring community access to fresh, affordable, local produce year-round. Produce that doesn’t sell is rescued, prepared, and served at our free community café." 

Some of the added benefits of the onsite vertical farm include: 

  • Elimination of food miles: the crops only travel steps from the parking lot to the store  

  • Consistent reliability: store can produce its own line of crops for shoppers, with year-round consistency regardless of the weather or changing climate conditions in Minneapolis  

  • Quality and freshness: by being grown hyper-locally (in this case, right onsite), produce stays fresh for far longer, reducing food waste for both the store and consumers 

  • Cost reduction: in removing distribution costs from the equation, PUC is able to pass savings on to the consumer  

  • Traceability & safety: the farm’s integrated IoT platform, farmhand, enables complete traceability of crops from seed to harvest 

North Market also sells produce from the PUC’s other soil-based farms in the city. To get those crops to the store, bicycle couriers pick up freshly harvested food from PUC’s Southside gardens and deliver them to North Market to be sold. Completing the cycle, they also pick up surplus food and bring it back to the Southside to be distributed in community delivery meal programs. Remaining food is composted back at the Southside gardens.