Large indoor veggie farms to match the price of Cali imports

01-12-2021    13:32   |    CBC

CANADA, Calgary- The city is now home to three commercial-scale warehouse operations. It's called "field parity" — when the price of growing produce in a local, high-tech warehouse edges down low enough to rival the California imports.

NuLeaf Farms hit that target with basil and thyme. They're close with lettuce and kale. The dream is ripe strawberries; the company is working on that in the test garden. 

"Imagine fresh, local strawberries in January," said co-owner Ryan Wright, before giving CBC News a tour of the company's new southeast Calgary grow room.

The floods in B.C. and increases in gasoline prices have put the fragility of Calgary's food supply system in sharp relief.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH: How vertical farms are using inner-city warehouses to grow and produce food locally.

Food costs have increased dramatically over the past year. These indoor crops won't help families scrambling to fill the fridge today, but some insiders believe farms such as NuLeaf are part of the long-term solution.

Kristi Peters, who heads up the city's food strategy, says Calgary now has three new large-scale facilities, plus several small ones, and is seeing interest grow.

"It's a piece of the food resiliency strategy," she said. "I don't think we can ever replace our dependency on imported food, but the indoor farm sector offers more predictable, more stable year-round yields."

The size of two semi-truck trailers

At NuLeaf, Wright celebrates the fact his team has not had to increase prices for produce yet. 

Since early this year, they've been selling it to local restaurants and direct from the farm, which is near the Deerfoot Casino just off Barlow Trail in Calgary's southeast. They're hoping to scale up with more locations in the city and in isolated rural communities. He is in talks with several First Nations.

From the outside, the grow centre is nondescript, easy to drive right past without noticing. That's because it's designed to be a building built inside another building, in this case an old engineering office.

But walk through the heavy door into the back of the warehouse and there's no doubt you've arrived. You're hit with a wave of warm, moist air smelling like sage, thyme and oregano. Those highly perishable, quick-growing crops are the easiest to start with.

Click here to read more on CBC.


Image of Bright Agrotech via Pixabay 



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