New Brunswick

Local by Atta close to reopening after February fire

The co-owner of a Moncton company that runs an indoor hydroponic farm says it is well on the road to recovery following a devastating loss.

New location offers opportunity for expansion

Julian Howatt says Local by Atta is ready for expansion in a new location. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

The co-owner of a Moncton company that runs an indoor hydroponic farm says it's well on the road to recovery following a devastating fire.

Local by Atta started selling greens, grown under indoor lights, in March of 2014 at the Dieppe Market, adding on local restaurants, health food stores and a weekly basket program.

But the business was destroyed in February when a fire broke out in the building the company was renting.

"We'd already started planning an expansion but we had to accelerate those plans drastically," said Howatt.

"And so over the period of about three months we kind of put together our business plan and found a location and June 1 was when we got the keys."

New location

Howatt says the new location on English Drive is better suited for the business he runs with his brother, Jesse.

Renovations continue for a planned July planting at Local by Atta's new location. (Kate Letterick/CBC)
"The footprint is probably about five times larger so it will let us grow a lot more," said Howatt.

"We had trouble meeting demand just before the fire," he said. "This new facility will let us meet that without any trouble."

Howatt says Local by Atta will continue to grow mainstays like lettuce, micro kale and micro mustard and even specialty greens like red veined sorrel.

But it will also give them the chance to try some new products.

Demand high for product

"We'll be testing all the time which will be a great addition that we couldn't do at the last facility," Howatt said.

"We couldn't really dedicate a section of the farm for ongoing testing of new varieties. That's something we'll be able to do here at the new facility."

Local by Atta co-owner Julian Howatt says a larger space will allow for expansion. (CBC)
Howatt said the warmer months can be a challenge because many people grow lettuce in their own garden, or buy from local farmers. But he's ready to get back to work.

Construction continues at the new site and Howatt says they're waiting for new equipment to arrive.

He says it's hard to put a dollar figure on the loss of the business because the company is rebuilding and expanding at the same time, but he says it's in the six figures.

Local by Atta is hoping to plant the first seed between the middle and end of July and hopes to be back at the Dieppe market at the end of September.

Howatt says he's grateful for the support of family and friends, adding the company wouldn't be able to move forward without one important thing.

"I couldn't say enough [to] get insurance," said Howatt. "That's always the first question people ask us, 'Did you have insurance?' We did and we still do, otherwise we wouldn't be where we are now."