Organic produce is sold in the store

Canadian retailer first of its kind to install rooftop garden

Green roofs aren’t necessarily new, but when a grocery store chain decides to install a rooftop garden on one of its stores, that is refreshingly unique. The IGA in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent region officially launched its rooftop garden July 19. The project is managed by Ligne Verte (The Green Line) and has a year-round fulltime staff of two and a six-month contract position to supplement busier times. “It’s the largest commercial rooftop garden in Canada,” says Tim Murphy of Ligne Verte. Moreover, it’s the first of its kind in the country. Over 30 kinds of vegetables and greens are grown and harvested on a half-acre, grown in just six inches of soil. “A green roof garden allows us to nourish our passion for food while reducing our environmental footprint, something that is particularly important to us. We are happy to give life to this innovative project and hope it encourages other companies to follow suit,” said Richard Duchemin, co-owner, IGA extra Famille Duchemin.

Innovation for Canadian retail
It’s a big step forward on many fronts since green roofs, the focus of Ligne Verte’s company, produce multiple benefits. A green roof can cool a building in the summer. It’s also the first store to use an irrigation system with water recovered from its dehumidification system. Plus, it creates habitat. “To that we get to add local food production,” he says. “And, just after one year we have some birds nesting in the garden, we have sandpiper and ducks nest in the spring.” Pollinators also play a part; there is also a rooftop apiary of eight hives, run by a separate company. The honey is also sold in the store. 

Seasonal produce; comparable pricing
Murphy says that even though in the grocery store world the rule is to never run out of stock on something, growing seasonal items obviously means they’re only available for a certain amount of time. “It’s a bit of a re-education for both the grocer and the shoppers but I think they’re enjoying it. It’s been an overwhelming success. We’re selling out,” he says. There’s a camera on the roof so shoppers can see what’s happening while they shop. “I think it’s attracting more for local organic.” Prices remain reasonable also, since there are no transportation costs, although Murphy remarks that expenses are weighted towards labor because everything is done by hand. “Our product is definitely comparable (pricewise).”

Introduction of other produce
As far as plans for other produce, Murphy says the strawberries they’ve planted will yield next year. “That’s probably the main (fruit) that we think we can succeed at. We’re going to give ground cherries a shot next year.” He has also expressed interest in growing mushrooms and definitely increase compost production so it can all be produced in house.

Hopeful for expansion
Murphy is optimistic about creating more rooftop gardens. “I’m optimistic. We have gotten a few calls from other smaller grocers that would be willing. We can also do the same thing on another roof that’s not necessarily a grocery store. If a building wants to put in a green roof and grow vegetables we can come in and rent space,” he notes. “We’re excited at how it’s turned out.”

For more information:
Tim Murphy
Ligne Verte
Tel: (514) 442-4381

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