A new urban farm in Vancouver is growing food for local restaurants and markets without soil, or any other growing medium.

To grow produce, Harvest Urban Farms uses aeroponics, a process in which plants are grown in an environment of air or mist — from which the plants receive nutrients.

"The roots are literally suspended in midair and by doing that they have a lot more oxygen that's available to them so they can grow a lot faster," said Aaron Ferguson, CEO of Harvest Urban Farms, which launched earlier this year.

harvest urban farms

Aaron Ferguson, CEO of Harvest Urban Farms, stands in the Strathcona warehouse where the farm is located. He said he would like to see more aeroponics farms in Vancouver. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

The farm, which is holding an open house at its Strathcona warehouse July 21, is one of the only commercial aeroponics farms in North America.

Speed of growing plants

Ferguson said the technique enables the farm to get a seed to germinate and sprout within 24 hours.

He said they can get lettuce plants, for example, ready for harvest within 28 to 35 days.

"Lettuce plants out in the field take about 45 days to be mature," he said.

The environment the plants are kept in is humid, and the plants are kept under a light with a pink-purple glow — a part of the spectrum that specifically gives plants the light they need.

Aaron

The plants are kept under a light with a pink-purple glow — a part of the spectrum that specifically gives the plants the light they need. (Aaron Ferguson)

"It is kind of Space Age," he said, adding that much of modern aeroponics was developed on the International Space Station.

"Part of our development process was actually working with some folks who had NASA grants to do that, and we took it from there and made it more commercially viable."

Sustainability

Harvest Urban Farms supplies their produce to restaurants and markets within a 10 kilometre radius of the farm.

Ferguson said he hopes to see the use of aeroponics grow in Vancouver, as he said growing food locally as opposed to importing it improves the quality and eliminates supply chain costs.

"Vancouver still gets a lot of its food in the wintertime from California, and part of what we're trying to do is eliminate that," he said.

"California food is great, but it should be for people in California, not for people in Vancouver. It's more sustainable in general not spending that fuel to cart food around."

With files from CBC's On the Coast 


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