A 4,000-square-metre indoor vertical farm operated by Nova Scotia and Ontario-based GoodLeaf Farms is now fully operational in Guelph, Ontario.

The farm is fully automated and equipped to grow microgreens and baby greens 365 days a year without the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and with reduced water consumption, the company said in a statement. 

“Our growing system mimics the spring sun without the use of chemicals, releasing farming from the restrictions of the changing seasons,” Jacquie Needham, Accounts Manager for GoodLeaf Farms, said in the statement.

“We can grow local, fresh, nutritious and healthy leafy greens for the Ontario produce market all year long — we do it safely.”

The company said its system allows a safer, more nutrient dense and sustainably grown food source, providing a domestic alternative to imports from the southern United States or Mexico.

Vertical farming is a process that grows plants with hydroponics under specialized LED lights that concentrate the waves from the light spectrum that plants need to maximize photosynthesis.

This method of farming is cost-effective, suited to the Canadian climate and scalable, the company said. Crops are tested for contaminants before being shipped, ensuring food is safe for consumers.

The GoodLeaf process uses 95 percent less water than a traditional farm, and has no run-off issues or potential contamination of nearby water sources. The fact the food is grown locally means thousands of kilometers of transportation are removed from supply chains and more food can be grown per acre, reducing land-use pressures.

GoodLeaf currently has four microgreens and two baby greens available in Ontario, including pea shoots, a micro Asian blend, micro arugula, baby kale and baby arugula.

“The pandemic has underscored how important it is to have access to local food sources – food that we know is safe, grown responsibly and immune to border closures,” said Needham.

“Compared to a green that was grown thousands of miles away, packed on to a hot truck and shipped across the continent, our process is far superior. Local food is simply better — better for you, better for the environment and better for our economy.”

GoodLeaf was founded as TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture in Halifax in 2011 by Gregg Curwin who was looking for a way to boost the health of Canadians. He was inspired by the indoor hydroponic farming underway in Japan and set about bringing the idea to this country.

In 2015, GoodLeaf constructed a pilot farm near Truro, NS, to test commercial production and research new varieties and growing techniques. 

In summer 2019, GoodLeaf's first full-scale commercial farm in Guelph, Ontario, began supplying microgreens and baby greens to retail locations and restaurants in Ontario. 

The production volume of the Guelph Farm is about 10 times that of the Truro farm, whch is now an R&D facility. The company has ongoing R&D Programs with the University of Guelph, Dalhousie University and Acadia University.

Curwin stepped down as company CEO in 2018, paving the way for McCain Foods to steward the growing company.

GoodLeaf is not currently providing food to Atlantic Canada but is looking to expand back into the region and into Western Canada with new facilities.