The technology behind vertical farming was originally developed with space travel in mind. Researchers, attempting to minimize the amount of real estate and materials needed for interplanetary travellers to grow food on long-haul trips, found that the tech could work on Earth.
Despite the seemingly futuristic possibilities, vertical farming is becoming a practical reality in southern Ontario: a new vertical farm in Welland’s Industrial Zone had its first harvest last week. The facility, which opened in September, practises a high-tech way of growing food indoors that proponents say saves energy and will help improve food security and safety.
Whereas traditional farming involves planting across a wide area, vertical farms build upwards, stacking plants in layers. Run by Elevate Farms, a company that grows and sells produce in vertical farms, the facility in Welland is about 1,860 square metres, 465 of which is growing space. Plants are stacked 13 layers high (about 7.5 metres) and grow with their roots in water, rather than soil.
They get their light from LEDs, which can be adjusted to produce changes in the plants’ colours and nutrients. According to Elevate’s chief strategy officer, Travis Kanellos, the farm’s goal, for now, is to produce and market leafy greens, such as lettuce, arugula and basil; eventually, it will branch out to more products. Kanellos says the farm should be able to produce an estimated 454,000 kilograms of greens per year: “That facility will have a capacity of 1 million pounds annually out of a 5,000 square-foot box. And that’s our quote-unquote standard facility.”
Read more at TVO 50 (Justin Chandler)