Online farmers’ market in Calgary provides opportunities for growers in pandemic

Stocking up at a supplier on a Wednesday in mid-May, it was another busy day for a fast-growing Calgary food delivery company. “We’re Canada’s first online farmers’ market,” founder Dan Berezan said.

Berezan was loading up his van at Deepwater Farms in southeast Calgary, preparing to drop off orders at customers’ homes. Deepwater Farms is one of 70 vendors CultvatR works with. “We’re an indoor vertical farm, doing hydroponics,” Deepwater’s Paul Shumlich said. “Growing baby kale, arugula, beet leaf, and watercress.”

With CultivatR selling only locally produced items, it’s providing a new market for companies like Deepwater, at a time when it’s really needed.

“Before the pandemic, 90 percent of our sales were to restaurants,” Shumlich said. “And then when the pandemic hit, that changed overnight for us.” Deepwater quickly switched to selling its produce to stores and through CultivatR.

It’s all part of the huge growth the company has seen since starting off small in July 2019. “The pandemic was a game-changer for us,” Berezan said. “Our 2020 sales growth was about 6000 percent.” CultivatR benefitted from customers shifting to supporting local businesses while trying to stay safe by avoiding in-store shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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