Have you tried our Sun-dried tomato and basil Cashew Cheese? If so, then you have likely enjoyed the produce from Smart Greens. Smart Greens is a progressive little urban freight farm founded by partners Eric Bergeron and Eric Amyot, that has been growing farm fresh greens year round in a shipping container in downtown Cornwall, Ontario. I was totally blown away by this concept when I first heard about it.
Smart Greens crops are grown hydroponically from organic seeds in a temperature and humidity controlled environment without pesticides. Crops are grown in vertical hanging towers which are continually fed and watered from above. The excess water is collected and recycled. Hanging LED light tapes provide all the light plants need 24 - 7!
This is the first freight farm of it's type here in Canada, and with this new technology, they can grow the equivalent of 1 acre of produce in 320 square feet using significantly less energy and water than a typical farm. The equipment is so smart that it knows exactly how much of each nutrient each crop needs and adjusts itself accordingly.
Basil is not the only crop growing inside this urban container farm; they also grow four different varieties of beautiful baby kale. Walls of lush foliage that goes from farm to plate even in the middle of winter.
The basil I get from Smart Greens is hand harvested the day I pick it up. In fact when I visited to conduct this interview I got to play farmer for a day and pick my very own basil! We absolutely love to bring you the freshest, highest quality product possible, and thanks to Smart Greens, this is a little bit easier!
Smart Greens also welcomes school groups and other folks into their fabulous little freight farm for educational purposes. They were generous with their time and were bubbling with enthusiasm when faced with questions. They even let me bury my face in the basil and inhale the vibrant beauty of it all. It's been a very long winter and this was like a little bit of summer sunshine in my day!
We interviewed Eric Bergeron and his wife Allison.
ME: How did you become urban farmers?
SG: It really boils down to all of us wanting to do work that was more fulfilling and felt more purposeful. When Eric B stumbled across this technology, it piqued his interest right away. The farm was designed to be layman-friendly - and by that I mean there was no farming or hydroponics experience necessary. We were very interested in its ability to be put virtually anywhere. We liked the idea that it could be located right in our downtown area and start making a direct impact on our community by means of providing fresh, healthy, local produce. All of these aspects really sold us on it and here we are.
ME: What is the impact of bringing container gardening to Canada?
SG: We're really hoping that introducing container farming to Canada means that communities will have greater year-round access to fresh, safe, local food. With so many concerns regarding food security, genetically-modified products and just general quality of our food supply, we really believe that container farming can have a huge positive impact on those concerns. Take Nunavut as an example. Imagine being able to provide fresh, locally-grown produce to families in northern municipalities all year long. The cost of their food is exorbitant and they deal with food safety issues constantly. One container is capable of producing 90 heads of lettuce per day! Imagine the difference that could make in a remote community.
ME: What has been your biggest challenge?
SG: Crop management has been our biggest surprise so far. We were warned to keep it simple and start with just one variety, but decided to be ambitious and start with three. We have learned a valuable lesson. Every plant has its own life cycle and harvest schedule and managing 256 towers of multiple varieties was much more complicated than we anticipated.
ME: What is Smart Green's vision for the future?
SG: We're hoping to expand our business. We'd love to have more containers and offer more varieties on a regular basis. We're also the Canadian distributor for Freight Farms so we'd like to see the trend catch on and containers sprouting up everywhere - restaurants, schools, food banks. We're working on getting some units established in northern Canada as well, so between that and expanding our local Smart Greens, we have a lot of growing to do.
Our thanks go out to these progressive local food producers who welcomed us with open arms and sent us off with arms full. Check out their website for more information. www.smartgreens.co