Traditional farming practices have many variables that come into play when growing consistent crops, and with climate change being a rife issue around the globe, what does the future of farming look like?
It looks like a Greenhouse 2.0, according to Dave Dinesen, CEO of Cubic Farm Systems.
“It’s an automated commercial scale vertical farming system that allows you to grow commercial scale quantities of leafy green vegetables, herbs, animal feed, lots of different sort of leafy green products, 12 months a year anywhere on earth,” Dinesen explained about the pesticide-free operation.
Pitt Meadows is home to the sole corporate owned and operated cubic farm facility that produces commercial-scale crops locally that can be found at some IGA and Fresh Street Market locations. Dinesen says the facility is their test kitchen and production site. The company is in business to sell, install and train their farmer customers how to operate the system.
“Our smallest system is about a 17 machine set up which would grow almost two million heads of lettuce per year or thousands of pounds of micro greens or other crops like that,” he said.
But the company is hearing from retailers that the crop is not what they have come to expect from traditional farms.
“Believe it or not when it comes to our lettuce, the two consistent feed backs are, best we’ve ever tasted and this stuff lasts forever, which are two comments that you rarely hear… and the difference is, its how we grow, harvest, and package,” Dinesen explained. “And because we’re able to harvest produce and leave the root on and leave it living, it lasts a long time, stays health, stays crispy, retains its nutritional value.”
So what are the benefits of this technology-enabled farming?
“Traditional farming uses an enormous amount of fresh water and we have to preserve that commodity,” explained Dinesen. “We have to be able to grow locally, we can’t keep shipping so much food for so many miles. Technology-enabled farming, or indoor automated vertical farming enables all that. It facilitates automation in a way that is challenging otherwise.”
The company has also found the system produces consistent crop yields when environmental factors are eliminated, something that remains a major factor is traditional farming practices.
“Probably the biggest difference between our system and anyone elses is that we have a machine that significantly increases the amount of crop you can grow per cubic foot, because we can go high as opposed to just one layer which would be a traditional Greenhouse or a traditional field crop.”
The local corporate facility received its GAP (good agricultural practices) certification almost a year ago and has been in operation since.
“I think Pitt Meadows can be proud it’s had one of the largest vertical farms in Canada operating now for a year. People from all over the world fly in, almost every week to see it, so it is generating a significant amount of economic benefit for the city,” said Dinesen.
The company has sold several units in Canada and some in the U.S. Dinesen said there are a few deals in the works for the new year as well.
“We have a very large farm that will be going into another municipality nearby, early in 2020. The system will be a 26 machine system, they will be growing a wide variety of leafy green vegetables, Asian vegetables, Asian herbs… it’s going to be grown for the local market,” he said. “And we have two other deals pending in B.C. that we expect to close early in 2020 for a similar size facility.”
The company is also looking to expand the Pitt Meadows site on the same site or nearby.
Cubic Farm System is created by founders of Langley-based Bevo Farms’ Jack and Leo Benne, when the pair were invited to solve growing challenges in Puerto Rico.
Bevo Farms operates 39 acres of Greenhouses in Langley and five acres in Pitt Meadows, according to their website. Last year, the company entered the cannabis industry when they signed a deal with medical marijuana producer Sun Pharm Investments Ltd.