“Our demonstration facility acted as a proof of concept for what we want to do, and we’re now focused on building our first commercial-size facility. Our demonstration facility was a significant size at 12,000 square feet, or the equivalent of 79 sea cans of production. That, along with everything we learned, positions us to expand by four times that to a commercial size.” says David Dial, president and CEO of groHERE.
groHERE is a Calgary-based vertical farming company that is focused on developing its first commercial facility for indoor strawberry production. The company has signed a letter of intent with Edmonton International Airport, which announced in 2021 its plans to launch its Ag-celerator program to facilitate the development of local food and beverage companies.
Designed for primary food production, the Ag-celerator facility will reportedly offer CFIA-certified facilities, contract packaging, market development support and access to the Fresh Cargo Centre to increase access to Canadian products, both domestically and abroad.
New strawberry farm
As part of the program, groHERE plans to outfit 45,000 square feet of floor space for CEA strawberry production using vertical farming technology. So while the footprint is 45,000 square feet, the equivalent production area will be even more significant.
“We plan to be operational and planting our first plants in December 2022, then reach full production capacity by Q2 2023. We’ve developed a purpose-built team with backgrounds in business, cultivation and the science of growing. We have the expertise to design, commission and operate a facility of this size,” says David.
Based on projected planting densities, groHERE expects to reach peak production of 4 million pounds of strawberries per year from this first facility. Looking ahead, the company is planning an additional four facilities as scaling up is the key to longevity in the vertical farming industry, according to David.
While groHERE has had preliminary discussions with different retailers, the distribution strategy is under development. Given the strong demand for strawberries, there is no question that the company will be able to develop distribution channels quickly.
“Canada is the #2 importer of strawberries in the world, with 33 million lbs imported per year into Alberta alone. The market is there and the retailers are feeling everything that consumers want. And with the positive environmental impact of limiting trucking and side-stepping supply chain disruptions, growing locally just makes sense,” explains David.