Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin businesses offering products and technologies related to vertical farming may find opportunities with Canadian partners.
Farming no longer demands huge tracts of land in order to grow certain crops successfully. Vertical farming is an alternative that is growing in popularity around the world, including in Canada, where 12 commercial vertical farms currently operate and at least two more are in the works.
“This is the evolution of farming,” Lenny Louis, CEO of Vision Greens, told CBC News. Vision Greens grows pesticide-free lettuce, arugula and basil in a two-story building in Welland, Ontario. “This is about food safety, food sustainability and food security, which is what we need as Canadians,” he said.
Worldwide, the market for vertical farming was estimated at $4.3 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $5.4 billion in 2022 and jump to $33 billion by 2030.
In Canada, the vertical farming market was estimated at nearly $554 million in 2021.
Vertical farming involves growing crops indoors in vertically stacked layers, occupying buildings such as factories, skyscrapers and former shipping containers. Typically, the products are leafy greens, micro greens and herbs.
The computer-controlled environment includes artificial lighting, humidity, temperature, irrigation and nutrients using technology such as artificial intelligence, robots, sensors, the Internet of Things and big data analytics. Together, they create optimal growing conditions, produce crops year-round and require less space, water and pesticides than the traditional farm field. Meanwhile, the produce is locally grown, fresh and nutritious, improving food security for vulnerable and remote communities.
That type of efficiency became even more valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when supply chains were obstructed and imports of food were uncertain. Mighty Harvest, a vertical farm in Oshawa, Ontario, was established precisely for that reason, founder Derrik Stevenson told the CBC. “Leafy greens have a very short shelf life so shipping product from California, by the time it gets here, it only has a few days in your fridge,” he said.
GoodLeaf Farms, with a pilot project that began in Nova Scotia in 2015 and a 50,000-square-foot vertical farm that began operating in 2019 in Guelph, Ontario, plans to add facilities in Calgary and in the Montreal area. The projects are being financed with help from an investment by McCain Foods and a new partnership with Power Sustainable Lios, as well as an incentive from the government of Alberta.
“Together, we are driving sustainable and innovative agriculture technology that is revolutionizing the way we grow food in Canada. Farming indoors frees us from the limitations of Canadian seasons and supports the harvesting of a superior product all year long that tastes garden fresh,” GoodLeaf Farms CEO Barry Murchie said.
Wisconsin companies in the agribusiness field with new or innovative products, services or technology for vertical farming may find opportunities in Canada’s growing market.