Let’s get vertical: 3 Ontario farmers lead the charge on vertical farming | Ontario Culinary
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owners of Ortaliza outside of their store

Let’s get vertical: 3 Ontario farmers lead the charge on vertical farming

It wasn’t long ago when farming was thought to be a horizontal game. Even now, if we mention farming to you, it’s likely you picture rows and rows of crops laid out in a field, traditional-style.

While we love that old-school approach too, Ontario farmers are thinking up new ways to farm and we’re totally here for it!

Vertical farming came into play back in 1999 and since then has taken off as a way to bring farming into untraditional spaces: we’re talkin’ shipping containers, condo walls and even mine shafts!

It’s thought to have a lower environmental footprint and solve one of our most pressing ag issues in Canada- our ever-shrinking farmland.

3 Vertical Farms to Check Out in Ontario

SO, who is doing the vertical farming in Ontario? Farmers at GoodLeaf Farms, Ortaliza Urban Farms and Truly Northern Farms. Allow us to introduce you.

GoodLeaf Farms

Where: Guelph, On.
Check them out online: goodleaffarms.com


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Back in 2011, Gregg Curwin was leaving the healthcare devices industry and was searching for a new way to be proactive when it came to health. Inspired by the hydroponics of Japan, Gregg set out to create something similar in Canada and so, GoodLeaf Farms was born.

On top of the health angle that Gregg was interested in pursuing, GoodLeaf Farms’ mission was to use agricultural practices that were also healthy for the planet.

After a few years of experimenting with growing conditions, the team at GoodLeaf create a test pilot farm in Truro, Nova Scotia to continue their research as well as pilot growing on a commercial-scale.

Of course, this story has to have an Ontario twist at some point! In 2018, Gregg and his team at GoodLeaf Farms broke ground on a state-of-the-art, commercial-scale farm in Guelph, Ontario that they call home today.

While Gregg has moved onto different ventures, GoodLeaf Farms continues! Here, they grow baby greens and microgreens that they supply to retailers and chefs through out the province… and trust us when we say they’re delicious!

But what else is so great about vertical farming? Well, GoodLeaf Farms has some pretty impressive stats to spell it out for us.

The water in vertical farming is recycled for starters so where your average traditional farm uses about 275L of water per kilogram of lettuce produced, GoodLeaf only uses 18L! It doesn’t stop there though.

Vertical farming includes stacking crops on one another. That means that the production per square foot is significantly higher and temperature control means they can have many more crop cycles in a year.

According to Barrie March, the current president and CEO of GoodLeaf Farms, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about vertical farming.

“Approximately 90% of Ontario’s leafy greens are imported, primarily from thousands of miles away in California and Arizona…” says Murch. “What arrives in Ontario is understandably sub-optimal, low nutrient density, short shelf life and lacking a fresh, flavourful eating experience.  That has been the only option in Ontario and across Canada forever due to the extreme winter climate many months of the year.”

Continuing on, Murch notes, “If you contrast that with GoodLeaf Farms’ leafy greens, we provide the optimal growing conditions from seed to package.  We grow with ~5% of the water used in open field farming, we never use pesticides, we grow locally in Guelph, Ontario 365 days a year and that results in the freshest, most nutrient dense, flavourful leafy greens available.  Our vertical farming technology, growing indoors, has provided Ontario, and soon all of Canada, with an alternative to the sub-optimal supply chain of imported products.  This allows Canadians to have better tasting, more nutrient dense, pesticide free, locally grown, longer shelf life product and increases the control of Canada’s food sovereignty…..that’s a pretty compelling set of reasons and that’s why I’m so excited about what we’re doing.”

Want to get your hands on some? Find a retailer near you.

Ortaliza Farms

Where: Kingsville, On.
Check them out online: ortaliza.ca

See your veg before it hits your plate at Canada’s first microgreen storefront, Ortaliza! Located in the charming town of Kingsville, Ontario, Ortaliza is a must-stop if you’re touring around.

Growing 65 different varieties of microgreens in-house, head to the back of the store to check out the farm and then enjoy this charming store full of delicious greens as well as other locally-sourced goods like vegan ice cream, tortillas, pretzels and more!

Wondering what to do with them? Check out Ortaliza online to find some recipes and if you love the greens you can even join their subscription program!

Truly Northern

Where: Chelmsford (near Sudbury) and Opasatika, On.
Check out out online: trulynorthern.ca

What comes to mind when you think of Northern Ontario? Most likely towering pines, dramatic rock shelf and dark soil. Most likely not leafy greens. Guess what? You can change that in your head now because Truly Northern has truly changed the face of farming in Northern Ontario.

Truly Northern was started way back in 2017 with the goal of flipping farming on its head in Northern Ontario and offering fresh, leafy greens all year round. It seemed lofty at the time but using hydroponics, that goal was reached!

Today, Truly Northern has expanded to two growing locations and farms everything vertically from romaine and kale to fresh basil and bok choy. You can have them delivered in the greater Sudbury area weekly or visit the farm store.

According to Truly Northern, one of the very cool things about vertical farming is that is uses 97% less fresh water than traditional farming and while most greens in the winter have to travel 2500km or more to get to Northern Ontario, these ones are grown locally, saving on emissions.

Go Green

So what do you think? Are you sold on the love for vertical farming? There’s nowhere to go but up!