Vertical mini-growing installation wows customers

As soaring grocery bills eat a bigger chunk of Canadians’ paycheques, an Ottawa company is seeing growing demand for its hydroponic technology that aims to make customers less dependent on global food supply chains.

Founded in 2016, The Growcer sells specially designed weatherproof containers that grow leafy greens and herbs hydroponically using light, carbon dioxide, and nutrient-rich water.

The 25-employee firm has installed its indoor mini-farms at more than 35 locations across the country from the Far North to B.C. and Nova Scotia. Its customers include food-services provider Chartwells, which has set up The Growcer’s containers at colleges and universities across the country to supply produce to campus food halls and cafeterias.

While the company was already gaining momentum before the pandemic, co-founder Alida Burke says orders have been pouring in lately as supply chain bottlenecks and surging transportation costs drive up food bills.

“I think it’s just shown the importance of being able to have opportunities to grow local food,” says Burke, who launched the business with co-founder Corey Ellis while both were students at the University of Ottawa. “Relying on long supply chains in times of stress can be really difficult. Local food is more important than ever.”

“We’re seeing an uptick in interest and really hoping to support a lot of communities that we work with that are at the end of those supply chains,” she says.

Incubated out of the Invest Ottawa accelerator, The Growcer has been self-funded since it launched five years ago, but that is about to change after the company captured the $150,000 grand prize at last week’s SheBoot pitchfest held during the annual AccelerateOTT event at Bayview Yards.

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