Shoppers of the future will ‘pick’ fruit from supermarket shelves – Telegraph

Supermarket shoppers in the next decade will be able to pick fruit and vegetables from plants still growing on the shelves, according to a report into the future of retailing. 

By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor 
Last Updated: 10:51PM BST 15 May 2009

Hand picking oranges: Shoppers of the future will 'pick' fruit from supermarket shelves

Produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf Photo: GETTY

Instead of buying pre-packaged packs of tomatoes or strawberries, they will be able to “harvest” as much or as little as they like – introducing the concept of “harvest by” dates rather than “best before” dates.

The idea has been proposed by Futurelab, a company that helps businesses predict trends of the future, and was part of a report commissioned by Sainsbury, the supermarket chain.

Lucy MacLennan, Sainsbury’s technical manager, said: “This would completely change how we sell produce to our customers. It would get rid of best before dates and allow shoppers to buy the freshest possible fruit and vegetables.”

Currently, produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf, but under the futuristic plan the plants would be grown in hydroponic pods.

These are special mini greenhouses that allow plants to grow without the need for soil; they grow in a special nutrient-enriched solution, cutting down on pesticides.

The pods would be very light and would allow the farmer to transport the plant from his farm to the supermarket while it is still growing.

Ms MacLennan said that shoppers picking their own crops in-store would, realistically, not happen for another ten years at least.

“It could cut right down on wastage and packaging. It would make not just environmental sense, but economic sense too so we are looking at it seriously,” she said.

The produce most likely to be sold this way would be light-weight crops such as peppers, strawberries, raspberries, beans, peas, tomatoes and mushrooms.

I love the idea of living in a food farm. All urban environments should have aquaculture or horticulture built in!

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