Winter Farm's focus on environmental sustainability, achieving food autonomy, and strategic partnerships has garnered attention and headlines, with recent funding of $46 million raising the bar for its ambitious goals. The company's concept fully integrates a vertical strawberry farm with an adjacent greenhouse. "This shows the company's deep understanding of the grower's reality," says Yves Daoust, Founder and CTO. "As a result, our vertical strawberry farm is capable of efficiently heating the greenhouse in the wintertime. As heat recuperation is a major concern in controlled environment agriculture (CEA), this solution constitutes a major innovation that reduces the dependence of greenhouses on fossil fuels and lowers their carbon footprint."
In addition, the integration allows for additional revenue generation as farmers can grow strawberries in the vertical farm, as well as peppers, lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, etc., in the greenhouse using the same amount of energy. "The Winter Farm solution exemplifies that it is possible for CEA to be both profitable and environmentally sustainable at the same time."
To realize this dual objective, the team uses a multidisciplinary approach to intelligent automation – integrating producers' knowledge, agronomy, engineering, and artificial intelligence (AI). "Our system of digital environmental control, CERVEAU, aims to optimize yield, maximize energy efficiency, and improve revenues by fully characterizing the strawberry plant's behavior in CEA by data, physical modeling, and machine learning."
One of Winter Farm's goals is to help growers replace 10% of Canada's strawberry imports. According to Alain Brisebois, President, and CEO, vertical farming is a promising new agricultural advance that holds potential for sustainable agriculture in the future. "At Winter Farm, in addition to providing efficient heating of the adjacent greenhouse, vertical farming eliminates the need for chemical pesticides well known for their harmful effects on both the environment and human health. Additionally, since Winter Farm allows local production, it minimizes transportation needs, further reducing the carbon footprint of fruit and vegetable production. Further benefits of our production practices include significantly lower water usage compared to traditional field production and the maximization of cultivable areas with the vertical stacking of the production. By utilizing heat management and recovery technology, we enable growers to produce an array of greenhouse produce in winter, thereby jointly promoting food autonomy and generating additional revenues for the growers. Our goal is to offer sustainable solutions for agriculture, not just for Quebec, but for the communities worldwide that face challenges related to food security."