How this year-round indoor farm is tackling food insecurity in N.L.
Hydroponics farm delivering greens to over 300 families per week
From The Ground Up is a CBC series in collaboration with Food Producers Forum, looking at how small-scale growers are digging and dreaming agricultural innovations in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador's winter weather might not present the best opportunities for growing fruits and vegetables, but a Mount Pearl farming business is bringing things inside to tackle food security year-round.
Green Farm N.L. launched in early 2020 with the goal of providing accessible and affordable produce for residents in the province. But rather than traditional farming on acres of farmland, the farm uses indoor hydroponics to grow crops all 12 months of the year — in a warehouse in Mount Pearl.
"It was kind of just a pilot project to prove that what were claiming, that we can be producing food year-round here, is actually possible," Green Farm CEO Scott Neary told CBC News earlier this month.
"In our first year … we were able to produce all of our products year-round and we really started to gain some traction."
The project began as a business idea for Neary, who comes from a science and engineering background rather than agriculture.
"When I was looking for a business to start, I was trying to solve a big problem. When I assessed what my home province needed, food security was on the top of the list," he said.
"It's so hard to get food here.… When you leave the city and go to other communities, it's even harder and more expensive."
The farming operation has quickly grown to a staff of eight, growing herbs and greens for more than 300 families per week through home delivery.
Using hydroponics in an insulated warehouse has its perks, he said, because it gives people the opportunity to grow whatever crop they desire at a lower environmental cost in terms of fossil fuels.
"Food production is a big part of decarbonizing the world. We really need like a revolution in how we produce our food," he said. "That kind of aligns with growing up in Newfoundland. The lack of food access, it's bad enough already."
The system allows for the farm to simulate optimal growing conditions through the use of artificial lights and heating, and humidity control.
"We're able to extend the growing season from just a few short months to 12 months a year, while also providing consistent and optimal growing conditions for all our our plants," he said.
Neary said the extended growing season can benefit both consumers and businesses. The farming offers restaurants the chance to secure core ingredients throughout the year delivered within hours of harvest to customers instead of being shipped in containers from the mainland.
And he hopes it's just the beginning, with the goal of expanding the business across the province.
"We hope that from here now that we've proven our concept, that we're able to build a range of these farms. Not just in the St. John's metro area, but across the province and hopefully into Labrador and possibly beyond," he said.
With files from The St. John's Morning Show