In the dead of winter, a non-profit group has found a way to grow vegetables to help feed struggling families in Calgary.

Grow Calgary is cultivating kale, lettuce and tomatoes inside a shipping container repurposed for hydroponic gardening — complete with lights, water and rows of plastic growing tubes.

Volunteer Sandie De Bonnault says the group delivered its first harvest to the Women's Shelter a few days ago.

"We were really proud. It was really cool to get this food out of the container in the middle of winter. It was awesome for sure and hopefully we can continue to do that," she said.

"The other good thing about it is that we can have early germination and start very early and have plants that are strong enough so that we can put them in the soil in April."

Hydroponic cultivation uses far less water than outside farming, and it's more efficient, De Bonnault said.

"It can be up to the equivalent of one acre of land inside one of those containers," she said. "Also you don't have the pollution, you don't have the pesticides."

De Bonnault says she and the other volunteers are still learning about hydroponics, but they hope to increase their yield in the coming months.

During the growing season, the non-profit group also farms an 4.5-hectare piece of land and gives the crops to Calgary's Compassionate Food Access Agencies.

grow calgary container

Grow Calgary is using this converted shipping container to cultivate vegetables to give to struggling families in the city. (Allison Dempster/CBC)