"Canada has the largest trade deficit in the world when it comes to leafy greens. We eat tons of them but do not produce very much, thanks, partially, to our climate, so the potential for indoor CEA lettuce is massive," says Jon Lomow, CEO at Fieldless.
Fieldless is an indoor farming company based in Cornwall, Ontario that currently supplies its product to 47 Farm Boy stores across the province, along with other independent grocers. The Farm Boy chain of fresh market stores is owned by Empire Group, which also owns Sobeys. Fieldless lettuce is currently priced on par with organic imports, which is good news for consumers who, according to Jon, prioritize local.
"In Canada, we import a huge amount of produce from very far away. Consumers recognize that and place a very high value on local products. And I think even though food grown without soil can't be certified Organic in Canada, consumers recognize that indoor growing achieves a product that is pesticide free and even beyond organic in many ways. When you combine the limitations of the Canadian climate, retail prices, and the savviness of the Canadian consumer, the Canadian context for indoor farmed lettuce might just be best in the world."
Fieldless' facility currently spans 60,000 square feet housing multiple farms, one of which is still under construction, and an automated mix-and-pack line. And Fieldless plans to continue expansion in Cornwall. The company is currently fundraising and looking for partners.
Fieldless' salad mixes in retail
Next up: beyond organic, Bioponic spinach
As Jon explains, Fieldless may be producing exceptional lettuce today, but the farming company has no plans to stop there. Having just brought an advanced automated lettuce farm online, the company is currently constructing a bioponic spinach farm that will "use organic nutrients and biologicals to create a rich living ecology that mirrors that of the very best soils in the world," as he explains. The first stage of the bioponic project will be online in the next month. "To our knowledge, this will be the largest indoor farm spinach farm in the world," said Jon.
Fieldless is focused on sustainability and the product experience.
Fieldless considers itself first and foremost a consumer brand and thus wants to focus on what the client wants, an exceptional experience and sustainable domestic products. The first step for Fieldless to fulfill this mission beyond leafy greens is indoor-grown mushrooms. The farm is already producing Lion's Mane mushrooms and is selling them as a pre-shredded product, making it easier and less intimidating for consumers to experience.
Beyond the crops, Fieldless understands that part of the exceptional experience it offers consumers needs to include the packaging. "We got a lot of feedback from consumers telling us they feel guilty using so much plastic when consuming cut lettuce mixes, including our products. It took us a couple of years, but we were finally able to introduce cardboard-based packaging with 90% less plastic into the market last month. It was a bold move to use a mostly opaque package, but now we get lots of feedback thanking us for the switch."
Fieldless' recycled packaging
Low-cost vertical farming - is it a myth?
As an increasing number of indoor farms report struggles with high operational costs, Fieldless Farms still manages to provide its products at a price on par with imports. How? As Jon explains, the low price comes as a combination of multiple factors, including access to low-cost hydroelectricity, real estate, a good labor pool, and the implementation of sensible automation.
"We work with industry partners and always look for the best companies to partner with to optimize our operations, technology, and financing," says Jon.
With these favorable economics in their back pocket, Fieldless is located just minutes from the United States' board, where it can reach 105 million US consumers within half a day's drive. So not only does Fieldless want to improve Canadian food sovereignty, but it hopes to reverse the flow of leafy green imports. As Jon notes, the CEA industry in Canada will only continue to grow, and Fieldless is excited to be a part of this movement.
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Jon Lomow, CEO