Canada imports most fresh fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores and restaurants based on its geographical location and climate. When exporting produce over long distances, the fruits and vegetables have been grown with durability in mind to ensure they make it to their destination looking good. Genetically manufactured for durability and distance, it sometimes compromises how the fruits and vegetables taste.
One solution to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables within the country is vertical farming. The farms are located in warehouses or empty office buildings where crops are grown year-round with artificial LED grow lighting and mediums such as soil or water (hydroponics) that mimic the plant's native climate. Controlling and ensuring crop yield makes vertical farming popular in many countries worldwide. It may eventually lead to increased availability of fruits and vegetables within impoverished urban locations.
The Canadian government noted that their lack of indoor growing facilities and utilization of available buildings put them far behind other countries to provide fresh produce. In addition, the COVID pandemic made shipping unreliable by interrupting the incoming supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2020 the province of Alberta reported only seven indoor vertical farms in operation (including warehouses and transport containers). Having more indoor growing facilities within the borders would help make Canada more self-sufficient.
Vertical farming incentives
In 2021 the Alberta Government offered incentives to commercial vertical farming companies. GoodLeaf Farms received a $2.73-million incentive from Alberta and is building a 74,000 square foot indoor grow facility with LED grow lights, which is projected to be completed by the end of 2022.
NuLeaf Farms is a small vertical farming operation that opened recently in Alberta. NuLeaf converted a 900-square-meter warehouse into a vertical farming facility capitalizing on LED grow lights to increase plant production. Growing 365 days a year with predictable yields has profited NuLeaf, and they hope to open another facility soon.
Vertical farming may be the answer to many issues in Alberta. Alberta is looking into vacant office buildings as vertical farms. Using empty office buildings and turning them into vertical farms would utilize existing structures that provide the space to grow fruits and vegetables as land for farming is not readily available. This "green concept" would grow 365 days a year, creating jobs and fresh produce for the province.