Vancouver-based Alterrus Systems this week celebrated the opening of the first Local Garden rooftop vertical farm, and the harvesting of its first commercial crop of leafy greens, in North America. The vertical farm is in a greenhouse on top of a parkade in downtown Vancouver.
"In this greenhouse, we've married our VertiCrop vertical-farming technology with an existing building - an underused downtown parking garage - to create a locally produced and distributed product," explains Christopher Ng, CEO of Alterrus. "The greenhouse is a viable commercial operation producing fresh, healthy greens sustainably."
Local Garden will produce approximately 150,000 pounds of leafy green vegetables and herbs a year, free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides and without the need for genetically modified seeds, the company says. The produce will be distributed to local Vancouver grocers and restaurants, including Urban Fare, Cioppino's, and Hawksworth.
"We believe this technology has the potential to transform Vancouver's food system," added Ng. "Vancouver produces a small percentage of its own food. We view Local Garden as a part of a transition to a more sustainable model of food production and delivery."
In the 6,000 square-foot Local Garden greenhouse, 4,000 square feet is dedicated as growing space while the remaining space is used for packaging. Produce is grown in trays stacked 12 high and circulating on conveyers to give plants even exposure to heat, light and humidity. The greenhouse produces significantly higher yields with less than 10% of the water required for traditional field agriculture. Virtually all excess water is recycled.
The City of Vancouver is partnering on the project by leasing the parkade rooftop.
"We're very excited to work with Alterrus to create local green jobs and grow fresh produce right in the heart of downtown Vancouver," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. "This project demonstrates the innovative spirit in our City's booming clean tech sector. Transforming an underused downtown parking lot to create much-needed jobs and fresh, local food is a win-win-win."
Vancity Credit Union provided Alterrus with growth-capital financing for Local Garden.
"It's an innovative project that's creating jobs, producing local food and reducing its footprint on the environment," Rick Sielski, Chief Operating Officer of Vancity, said. "Projects like this are totally aligned with our vision at Vancity of building vibrant and sustainable communities."
The Local Garden vertical farm will operate year round.