Across Canada there is a battle being waged and that battle is between prime living space and feeding people. In urban areas especially the amount of fertile and productive farmland being forever removed from use for farming is ever-increasing. In Greater Vancouver for instance, the geography makes for a hard time balancing housing people and feeding people. Land that has for decades been used for farming or are a perfect candidate for, are being paved and built over in the advance of the growth of suburbia. Yet at the same time there has been a move to eat better and source more locally grown food. So how do we rectify one need without harming the other? There must be some solutions for feeding urban populations, without the need for extensive and long supply chains. And one of the solutions that seems to be working is urban farming.
Montreal’s Lufa Farms is taking the idea of locally grown food and putting it right in the heart of urban areas where it is needed most. Lufa Farms delivers fresh-picked produce daily to 3,000 local consumers from their 31,000 square-foot commercial rooftop greenhouse operation situated near the Marché Central. By locating food production in the heart of urban areas, companies like Lufa Farms not only help people source local food, they are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to transport food long distances. And being on a rooftop means the greenhouse uses 50% less energy than a ground-level greenhouse.
From their original rooftop greenhouse location, 70.5 metric tons of produce were harvested and delivered in 2012. Even with Montreal’s notoriously cold and long winter months, Lufa Farms is able to continue their food production.
“We grow everything that we do any other time of the year, just slightly less of it. Lufa Farms greenhouses optimize sunlight exposure through crop placement and minimizing structural obstructions. Additionally, the company has made a number of innovations in maintaining appropriate climates for different crops by separating them into zones and by implementing automatic temperature control systems such as energy curtains. During the winter, though, less sunlight is available and crops may therefore require supplemental lighting to grow satisfactorily,” explained Lisa Figlioli.
Lufa Farms was founded by Montreal entrepreneur Mohamed Hage and a team of other entrepreneurs and experts and now employes around 30 people. And in only two years after overcoming some early obstacles, Lufa Farms is now turning a profit and showing that with some ingenuity and hard work, we can find sustainable and smart solutions when it comes to feeding people. Lufa Farms have been so successful so far that they are already expanding their operations to other cities. There is a new 43,000-square-foot greenhouse in Laval, Q.C. nearly finished and planting should start there next month. They are also planning for an American location with Boston a possibility for 2014.
Lufa Farms uses controlled environment agriculture and hydroponic growing methods. Water is recirculated; no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides are used; and green waste is composted on-site.
How it works is consumers subscribe to weekly deliveries of vegetables made up of more than 30 varieties of vegetables grown in the farm’s greenhouses and supplemented by seasonal crops and products sourced from local organic farmers. They can customize their baskets in the Lufa Farms online marketplace. And it’s not only home consumers jumping at the chance to get local produce; restaurants, catering facilities and hotel kitchens in Montreal are also being supplied by Lufa Farms. Weekly vegetables are delivered to a network of about 100 community pick-up points around the greater Montreal area. These pick-up points include cafés, retail outlets, gyms, and private businesses.
Lufa Farms also holds public viewing and information sessions. You can learn more about dates and times and Lufa Farms in general by visiting their website at www.lufa.com