Swiss agri-food Fenaco Cooperative, a major domestic supplier of fruit and vegetables, is to take part in a pilot project on vertical farming.

Fenaco is investing in Yasai, a fledgling business spun off from the ETH Zurich public research university, to build a vertical-farming plant in the Swiss capital.

“We are working on the farm of the future and regard this investment as preliminary work and a basis for decision-making for future investments in our producers,” Markus Hämmerli, head of country products and research cooperation at Fenaco, said.

The companies believe the plant could yield “20 tons of biomass products per year”. Fenaco said its investment will allow the co-op to “assess the potential for vertical farming and, if conclusive, to exploit economies of scale with larger plants and additional partners”.

“In the future, we do not want to produce ourselves, but rather share our experience in the field of vertical farming with our producers to open up a new, profitable business segment for farmers”, Daniel Schwab, head of the vegetable category at Fenaco’s national products division, said.

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By GlobalData

The Fenaco co-op accepts and markets agricultural produce from grain and potatoes to eggs, fruit and veg. It sells the products to Swiss retailers and foodservice operators, as well as through its own stores. Fenaco’s operations also take in upstream supplies to farmers and the energy business through service-station business Agrola.

In 2019, Fenaco’s net revenue was CHF7bn (US$7.7bn), contributing to an operating income of CHF121m.

“Thanks to the cooperation with Fenaco, we now have a strong industrial partner with a great deal of market and customer knowledge in the space on our side. This is extremely valuable when scaling up the technology and penetrating the Swiss market,” Yasai co-founder and CEO Mark Zahran said. “The partnership will enable Yasai to boost the distribution of its vegetables and herbs in the retail and catering segments.”