The Rashti brothers are aiming high with their new venture UP Vertical Farms in Pitt Meadows.
Bahram Rashti explains they are not only stacking their trays of crops 12 levels high, but their goal is to produce enough greens to supply all the bags of salad the province needs. That accomplished, they plan to expand to have a similar indoor operation in every province in Canada.
Their farm will be able to produce more greens than 350 times the equivalent square metres of field crops, Bahram asserts. They expect that will give them a competitive edge, and allow them to take over a market that has been dominated by foreign growers.
“Our intention is to disrupt and replace the field-grown product from the U.S.,” he said.
Bahram left his career as a dentist to pursue this ambition with his brother Shahram, who has a doctorate of business administration and a background in information technology. Their ambition is nothing less than to become the world’s largest, most sustainable grower of post organic super greens by 2023.
UP Vertical Farms is owned by Fresh Green Farms, an agriculture technology company founded by the brothers.
They believe their company will be a leader in a “global agricultural revolution,” creating touchless, high density indoor vertical farm for growing post-organic super greens.
Agriculture faces many challenges – climate change, labour shortages, rising fuel costs, and health concerns around food contamination.
Traditional methods of farming are proving to be unsustainable, said Bahram, and that’s why the team at UP Vertical Farms has spent the last several years researching and developing the latest technology to grow healthier crops at 350 times more yield compared to conventional farming.
“Vertical farming is the future of agriculture and we’re excited to take it to the next level to bring healthier, better tasting, and longer lasting greens to consumers everywhere by next year,” said Bahram. “Our fully automated system will revolutionize the industry by allowing for much higher yields, quicker production, better quality control, and less potential for contamination in order to produce locally grown post organic super greens in the most sustainable way.”
Bahram believes this farming of the future will allow nations to feed their people as the world population rises closer to 10 billion. It will also free up farm land, to enable planting trees for carbon sinks, to fight climate change.
“If we continue to grow food the way we’re growing now, it’s not sustainable,” he said.
UP Vertical Farms will roll out the first phase of operations at its Pitt Meadows location in the spring of 2022, with projections to produce 0.9 million kilograms, and 6.3 million bags of salad greens per year. The second expansion phase will be completed in late 2023. It will produce 1.8 million kg per year from a 75,000 square foot facility, making UP Vertical Farms the largest vertical farm in the world. A planned third phase expansion will double the size of the facility to offer a total output to 3.6 million kg of greens per year.
Leaves will never be touched by humans and will be grown in water rather than soil, and in a controlled indoor environment. This will eliminate the need for chemicals to protect crops from disease or contamination. The result is healthier super greens classified as post-organic, a higher quality than the traditional organic food classification where zero harmful chemicals or manure are used in any part of the seeding, growing, and harvesting.
UP’s crops will be grown year-round in a 13 to 21-day growing cycle. From arugula to butter lettuce, UP’s ready-to-eat greens will come in a variety of blends and varieties for salads, dishes, sandwiches and garnishes with customized options for restaurants and corporations. Consumers will be able to purchase UP super greens from a range of retailers in 2022.
Bahram said the Pitt Meadows farm will employ more than 100 people when it is fully operational.
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