May 10, 2023

Leafood arrives at IKI grocery stores in Lithuania

First harvest at Leafood vertical farm in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Leafood vertical farm opens today in Vilnius, delivering a fresh selection of locally-grown salads and herbs to the Lithuanian market. Its first harvest will be available at select IKI grocery stores, nationwide, from May 12.

Leafood’s produce includes Romaine, Lollo Rosso, Iceberg Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Green Oakleaf, Rucola, Basil, Coriander, and Mint. Gourmet and Classic salad mixes are also on offer. Each will be priced slightly higher than imported salads and herbs that already exist in the Lithuanian market, but this premium price tag comes with a lot of benefits.

All Leafood salads and herbs come ready to eat, straight from the reclosable packaging. They do not need to be washed before eating, making them perfect for a quick and healthy meal. Grown indoors with YesHealth Group technology, Leafood salads and herbs are all 100% free from pesticides, harmful chemicals, and residues that can be found on other produce.

Whereas imported salads and herbs tend to have a refrigerated shelf life of 1-5 days, Leafood salads and herbs stay fresh in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. This difference comes from the shipping duration, with much of Lithuania's imported salads and herbs traveling from northern Africa or southern Europe. The lack of pesticides and other residues on Leafood produce, along with the localized supply chain, all contribute to an enhanced shelf-life.

Those who purchase Leafood products are investing in a Lithuanian food system that’s resilient to climate change. Unlike traditional, outdoor farms and greenhouses, Leafood’s vertical farm does not rely on seasonal conditions, sunlight, temperature, or rainfall. Produce can be harvested every day of the year, and a lot more produce can be harvested within the same volume of space. Furthermore, it requires less water, and neither pollutes the surrounding environment with fertilizers, nor pesticides.

Thanks to the advanced technologies inside Leafood vertical farm, salads and herbs can now be grown all year round in Lithuania, and it can be done sustainably. Energy efficiency will constantly improve, as data accumulates allowing technicians to fine tune the controlled, indoor environment. Leafood vertical farm is powered entirely by renewable energy, and operated by YesHealth Group's team, who have already built and operated successful vertical farms in Taiwan and Denmark.

YesHealth Group technician at Leafood vertical farm

Back in June 2022, Leafood secured €6.45 million in seed funding from Niels Peter Pretzmann, founder of organic farm Farmer’s Circle, and sustainable hospitality hub Baltic Food Republic, alongside YesHealth Group and another private investor. The Vilnius vertical farm's installation and testing was completed in April 2023. It is currently being operated by YesHealth Group, as they train a local workforce during its initial phase of production.

Valentinas Civinskas, CEO of Leafood

Don't hide behind the leaves - eat them.

"More and more people have started making a conscious decision to purchase local goods in Lithuania," says Valentinas Civinskas, founder and CEO of Leafood. "However, when it comes to salads and herbs, which can only be grown outdoors for 2 or 3 months of the year, there has been no choice but to purchase imported goods. Now, that's all changing. Because of technology, we can grow salads and herbs all year round in Lithuania, and people can purchase our locally-grown produce for an affordable price."

A European Commission report, published in 2021, ranked Lithuania among Europe's unhealthiest countries, and attributed most deaths in the country to dietary risk. The report estimated that, in 2019, 25% of deaths were related to dietary risks, stemming from low fruit and vegetable intake, accompanied by high sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. It also cited a survey, in which 46% of adults reported not eating at least one portion of vegetables every day.

“The Lithuanian dietary problem isn’t just about access to affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables. It’s actually a behavioral problem. Our dietary culture needs to change, and people need motivation to bring change about,” continues Civinskas. “Don't hide behind the leaves - eat them. We came up with this bold campaign slogan to communicate what we believe in, and you’re going to start seeing it all around Lithuania. We want to encourage people to break social norms, and eat more fresh, raw salads.”

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