Canada Needs to Shore up its Food Sovereignty

Climate-controlled indoor farming can wean us off the exports we have relied on in the past

GUELPH, Ont. — Continued investment and support for agricultural innovation and technology can help Canada avoid future food shortages like the one it is currently experiencing with lettuce and leafy greens. 

Currently, Canada leans heavily on the southwestern United States for its lettuce, with an estimated 90 per cent of the leafy greens sold in Canada coming from a foreign market. At a time when Canada relied only on open-field farming restricted by our seasons, that made sense. 

But that time has passed. 

“Canadian consumers shouldn’t have to rely on imported food when there are local options available,” says Barry Murchie, Chief Executive Officer of GoodLeaf Farms. “Technology and innovation in indoor agriculture can make Canada fully self- sufficient in a range of leafy greens — despite the fact our open-field farms are largely dormant through autumn and winter. With the right investments — and, quite frankly, consumer education and support — Canada can be a leader in indoor agriculture.”

The lettuce shortage Canada is facing is a direct result of a very hot and dry summer in California, a continuing trend of a mega-drought that has been devastating crops in the region. With reports of entire crops being wiped out this year, there hasn’t been enough supply to satisfy the Canadian market. It has resulted in skyrocketing prices at grocery stores, and some restaurants have had to pull salads from their menu. 

But Canada is quickly getting to a point where it can grow what it needs right here, without having to rely on imports. 

Climate-controlled indoor vertical farms is the game changer — they are largely immune to extreme weather events, like a California drought or a typical Canadian winter and are designed to maximize crop yields in a fraction of the space required for open-field farming, with only five per cent of the water needs. 

The controlled environment means there is no need for pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, and the advanced system of hydroponics and LED lighting replicates ideal growing conditions for plants, maximizing yields and improving quality. 

An indoor farm can grow and harvest up to 40 crops of a microgreen every year, and baby greens can produce 20 crops a year. The process is fully automated, from planting the seed through harvest and packaging. All irrigation goes directly to the roots of the plants — nothing ever touches the plant canopy that is harvested. The first hands to touch the greens you buy will be your own. 

Not having to rely on the southwestern United States for leafy greens also removes thousands of food miles from the road, which gives Canadian-grown leafy greens a much smaller carbon footprint. 

“Indoor vertical farming is an ideal option for import replacement, providing a feasible option for produce that doesn’t typically do well on Canadian farms,” says Mr. Murchie. “The California drought may be making Canadian restaurants skimp on their salads and causing shoppers to dig a little deeper, but that is no longer the only option. Vertically farmed Canadian-grown leafy greens are a better option to imports, they are great for salads, are excellent as a topping on a sandwich and can add a punch of nutrients blended into a smoothie.”

Follow GoodLeaf Farms on Instagram @goodleaffarms and Like it on Facebook at /GoodLeafFarms.

About GoodLeaf Farms:

With a passion for delicious, nutrient-rich greens, GoodLeaf was founded in Halifax in 2011. Using an innovative technology and leveraging multi-level vertical farming, GoodLeaf has created a controlled and efficient indoor farm that can grow fresh produce anywhere in the world, 365 day of the year. The system combines innovations in LED lighting with leading edge hydroponic techniques to produce sustainable, safe, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense leafy greens. GoodLeaf has ongoing R&D Programs in collaboration with the University of Guelph, Dalhousie University and Acadia University. 

Learn more at goodleaffarms.com.

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