News / Vancouver

Vancouver's first vertical urban farm goes bankrupt

The operators of a novel urban farm have filed for bankruptcy amid accusations of poor judgment at City Hall.

Alterrus’ VertiCrop vertical urban farm opened in late 2012 to great acclaim, promising the pesticide-free, local produce grown at the top of a five-storey parkade at 535 Richards St. would elevate the buy local movement to new levels.

The plan was to sell the lettuce and other leafy greens to local restaurants and grocers and pave the way forward for high-density urban farming.

After Vancouver, the company said it wanted to introduce commercialized vertical gardens in every major North American city within five years.

But just over a year into that plan, the dream has died on the vine.

Alterrus filed for bankruptcy on Thursday.

“It’s disappointing to hear,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a prepared statement, a major advocate for the venture. “Having Alterrus lease the space generated more revenue for the city than when it was a parking lot.”

But Non-Partisan Association (NPA) councillor George Affleck said the writing has long been on the wall and criticized Vision Vancouver-dominated council for handing Alterrus the city-owned land without exploring other options for the space.

Now, he says, the city (through EasyPark) is on the hook for at least $13,000 in unpaid rent.

“This company was chosen without any kind of process,” Affleck said. “I did my research and, financially, this company was not a healthy one from what I saw in public records. I was shot down by Vision and told not to worry. Clearly, we should have worried.”

It’s not clear what will happen to the top storey of the EasyPark parkade now that Alterrus has ceased operations, but Robertson remains optimistic.

“I hope EasyPark will continue finding new and innovative ways to keep generating revenue from underused spaces like vacant parking lots."

Optically, this is the second major blow this month to the city’s Greenest City ambitions, following the bankruptcy of Montreal-based Bixi, the city’s preferred supplier for its long-delayed public bike share system.

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