Montreal: Fertile ground for urban agriculture entrepreneurs
The success of Lufa Farms in Montreal illustrates the possibilities for urban rooftop gardens with its greenhouse farms in Ahuntsic and Laval, hydroponically growing about 200 tonnes of produce annually. These greenhouses are a showcase of year-round vegetable production using sustainable methods, biological pest control and water conservation.
A project called Urban Barns launched recently in Mirabel is taking indoor food production to another level. Housed in a 1,500m2 building that is described on the company’s website as the “world’s first commercial scale Cubic Farm (patent pending),” the technology of the site allows row after row of plants on vertical conveyor belts to grow in a hydroponic mix of nutrients, bathed in 12 hours of light from an elaborate LED installation.
Opened in June, the facility sells lettuce, kale and assorted micro-greens to IGA stores, restaurants and hotels in the Montreal area. At the Université de Montréal’s Outremont campus, the Bioma co-operative is employing small-plot intensive farming practices on a piece of borrowed land, and selling its lettuce harvest to local restaurants.
On the western side of the city, the Urban Seedling company offers an edible landscaping and vegetable gardening service to homeowners and institutions.
And in Montreal West, a small enterprise called Bio-cyclette has uncovered a horticultural treasure along the edge of the railway tracks. Looking for more space to grow vegetables for their commercial urban farm, Annie McLaughlin and partner Konstantinos Hirtle-Kattou discovered the prolific fruit and vegetable plots that had been planted decades ago by Montrealers of Italian origin.
“These folks started farming there in the 1950s,” McLaughlin says, “and they’ve done some magic. Now they’re getting older and a lot of the land is riddled with weeds.”
Connecting with many of these older farmers, “sharing seeds and stuff with them,” has been rewarding and inspiring, she says. “They have so much knowledge and the next generation is not around to take it up. It’s really sad. They’re happy to see us there.”
In addition to producing vegetables for sale, the couple help homeowners set up vegetable gardens in their back yards, and offer eco-friendly lawn care — all accomplished with the aid of bicycles with attached trailers.