Bible Hill's TruLeaf to bring its hydroponic lettuce to Ontario
Bible Hill-based company growing lettuce indoors plans to expand to Ontario
A Nova Scotia company growing indoor lettuce is already expanding to Ontario as it prepares to introduce its product to a major grocery chain in its home province.
Superstores in Nova Scotia will begin receiving lettuce in clamshell packaging in early 2017 from TruLeaf, a facility in Bible Hill that employs 36 people.
Another dozen or more employees will be hired at a planned facility in Guelph, Ont., which will allow the company to expand into that province's market.
"It's been extremely rewarding, to take something from literally a cocktail napkin to where we are today," said Gregg Curwin, TruLeaf's president and CEO.
Launch in Newfoundland
TruLeaf lettuce is grown under tightly controlled conditions using LED lights and recirculated water. The product is ready to be harvested after about two weeks.
In October, the company launched its clamshell lettuce packs in all 11 Dominion stores in Newfoundland through a partnership with Loblaw.
The parent company of Atlantic Superstore was keen to find a local supplier for the popular baby greens and it wanted Newfoundland to be the first place to receive them.
"When you talk of fresh greens, it's a significant problem in Atlantic Canada," said Curwin. "Except for the local growers that are growing specific greens, there's really no fresh greens in Atlantic [Canada]. It comes from California."
Curwin said most of the baby lettuce greens from California are trucked for seven to 10 days before they reach Atlantic Canada.
"There's a lot of spoilage, there's a lot of waste, just from the very nature of a leafy green and being on the road for that long."
Mark Boudreau, Loblaw's Atlantic director of corporate affairs, said there is an additional challenge in getting greens to Newfoundland.
"Sometimes we get ferry delays and in the past we've had some challenges with respect to getting fresh produce to Newfoundland, especially in the winter months," he said.
Boudreau said he often gets calls in the winter complaining store shelves in that province are bare.
"Now that winter's settling in, I think there's a lot more awareness around local, fresh," he said. "The feedback's been terrific."
Truleaf began developing the growing system for its plants six years ago and the startup expects to be profitable by the end of next year after construction of the Guelph facility.
"To hit to that point by the end of next year is, in my opinion, quite impressive," said Curwin.
This month, Truleaf announced it had received $8.5 million in private investment. ACOA has also been an investor in Truleaf with a repayable loan of $355,410 in 2012. The Nova Scotia provincial investment agency Innovacorp has put $250,000 into Truleaf.