"At this point, most folks know of the advantages of marrying vertical farming with greenhouses, year-round production capability being one of the top. By combining vertical farming and greenhouse crop production, we can take farming to another level in this partnership with Affinor. Once the facility is up and running, we will begin shipping out 23,000 lbs (10,433 kg) of strawberries a day and aim to triple that number by 2028," Vic Reddy, CEO of Freshbay, a Canadian vertical farm that incorporates geothermal energy and hybrid farming solutions into their production facilities.
Working on launching its first strawberry production facility, Hinton will be Freshbay's starting point for a GeoCEA (geothermal CEA) project due to the geothermal anomaly that occurs in the region. Through that, the company can harvest the appropriate amount of thermal (heat) energy required for the production of its Affinoria Fragaria strawberry.
When will the project be finalized? The construction of its 860,000+ square feet of greenhouse space and an additional 100,000 square feet of office, employee, and storage space to heat is going to take Freshbay into 2025, Vic points out. Meaning that production will commence somewhere in Q2 of 2025.
Running trials in Freshbay's Abbotsford R&D facility in the winter of 2022, the team was able to produce berries and sell them in Whole Foods. The economics are unparalleled, as Vic believes. Phase 1 of this project will create 200 full-time strawberry technician positions and an additional 21 office- and management positions. As Vic explains, the hiring campaign will be initiated in Q1 2024.
'The power of GeoCEA'
Freshbay is utilizing both geothermal energy and co-generation. "In short, the combination of these two technologies provides an unparalleled advantage to Freshbay with both utility expenses and greenhouse gas output. The combination of both the closed loop geothermal technology from Novus Earth and our custom build co-generators allows our utility- and energy costs to be exponentially less than a standard greenhouse or even warehouse producer," Vic affirms.
Freshbay's geothermal wells and co-generators also provide us with stability, as our production will never be disrupted by spikes in utility costs. Which, according to Vic, are costs that have crippled other producers in the past. "Even with our co-generators using green natural gas, if there is a spike, we buffer that as Alberta's energy regulations allow us to profit from the sale of excess electricity going to the grid. We will never be in a situation where energy costs prevent us from producing our strawberries."
Vic points out that there is never a gap in supply and demand when using geothermal energy. Novus Earth has ensured that its geothermal tech will provide an abundant and steady flow of heat for the next 30+ years. (We are talking about longevity when we talk about geothermal wells.)
Adding robustness to CEA
"At this point, most folks know of the advantages of marrying vertical farming with greenhouses, year-round production capability being one of the top. By combining vertical farming and greenhouse crop production, we can take farming to another level in this partnership with Affinor."
In the middle of a bitterly cold Alberta winter, natural gas and electricity prove to be too costly. Geothermal energy not only provides the production site with an abundance of heat but also provides cooling capabilities.
The Atlantis greenhouse, in addition to its light diffusion, is also able to withstand hurricane-category winds, hail, heavy snow loads, and essentially anything else Mother Nature can throw at it. The patented vertical towers that will house strawberry plants are built out of stainless steel, which removes the risk of microplastic exposure and assists in maintaining the cleanliness of the production space.
"Like nothing seen before"
Nothing like Vic explains that "the economics and advantages of combining geothermal energy, co-generation, our tower- and greenhouse technology, makes our production model unparalleled."
Then, the co-generators not only provide electricity and CO2 but also send off excess electricity to Alberta's electrical grid for consumer use. On top of that, we have the environmental parameters, such as the cold, dry, crisp glacier air that comes down from the Rocky Mountains, which will allow Freshbay to produce great strawberries.
"With an abundance of glacier water and the government of Alberta, politicians, and local stakeholders on our side, we have been incredibly supported by them in this project thus far. The combination of everything aforementioned is something that hasn't been obtained yet by any berry producer in North America."
Tapping into other states?
Vic intends on expanding into neighboring British Columbia and to three international locations that cannot be disclosed yet. Why? Vic explains that "the economics and advantages of combining geothermal energy, co-generation, our tower- and greenhouse technology, makes our production model unparalleled." Although the Affinoria Fragaria strawberry will only be produced in the Affinoria Glacier Valley, Freshbay will add additional fruits and vegetables to its roster with each expansion.