CAN: Local produce options expand with vertically farmed greens

Over the years, the local food movement has grown from a handful of agriculture advocates touting the importance of supporting local farmers to a large-scale demand for everything from meat to chocolate that’s been produced and, when possible, grown here in Alberta. 

Yet, as one looks outside at our February weather, it’s obvious that some of the favourite foods simply can’t grow in abundance here. Greenhouse technology allows farmers to grow local cucumbers and tomatoes alongside wheat and canola fields, but greenhouses take up a lot of real estate. A new breed of urban farmer is using vertical farming techniques to grow crops like microgreens and baby kale on a much smaller footprint, right inside the city limits.

The newest local player is Allpa Vertical Farms. The company is headed by three young entrepreneurs who used their shared interest in food, sustainability, and engineering to build a vertical farming operation. It involves vertically stacked levels of plants, grown indoors, usually in a warehouse or shipping container. The lighting, irrigation, and soil are carefully controlled so that crop yields aren’t reliant on exterior factors like weather and sunlight.

Allpa specializes in microgreens, growing radish, broccoli, sunflower, and arugula sprouts that can be bought by the tub at the Italian Centre Shop and all Sunterra locations. Since microgreens only take about 11 days to go from seed to harvest, the Allpa crew can grow their greens to order, making for less food waste.

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