Vertical urban farm opens in Vancouver parking lot
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Locavores, look no further than the 10th floor of a downtown parkade for homegrown, leafy greens.
The first vertical urban farm in Vancouver – and in North America – harvested its first commercial crop of greens, kale, spinach, arugula and fresh herbs Tuesday from the rooftop of the Richard St. EasyPark.
The clean-tech farm is green, innovative, creates local jobs and occupies unused space, making it a “win-win” for Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson said at the launch event.
Plus it lines the city’s pockets. Vancouver-based Alterrus Systems Inc. leased the underused parking space from the city at market rates and built the greenhouse with its own cash.
The $2-million, 6,000 square foot Local Garden, as the crops are branded, will employ between four to six people from Downtown Eastside organization Mission Possible.
The original VertiCrop system at the U.K.’s Paignton Zoo grows produce to feed animals, but this is Alterrus’ first attempt to sell to commercial markets.
It expects to produce 150,000 pounds of produce annually. The crops take about 20 days to grow and are rotated through the conveyor system to get maximum light exposure.
While the greens will be sold to those who can afford them, Alterrus is looking at opportunities to pay part of its lease fees in produce to contribute healthy food to city organizations, strategic advisor Donovan Wollard said.
Local restaurants and grocery stores such as Fable, Hawksworth, Spud.ca and Urban Fare want to buy the greens rather than ship the highly perishable items from as far as 2,000 kilometres away.
Chef Trevor Bird, owner of Fable, plans to purchase mostly from Local Garden, as he can pick it up on his way to work.
“It’s just about knowing where the source of your food is and who grows it,” he said. “It does taste incredible – it’s pretty hard to argue with that.”