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Company looking to build its SQF vertical farm in Ontario

Vertical farming concept to help food-insecure community

A Toronto, Ontario-based company has brought his proof of concept vertical farming system to be part of an initiative to grow food for the non-profit community in Windsor. 

Zale Tabakman with prototype unit.

Local Grown Salads, in a partnership with Science City, set up the indoor farm in an under utilized high school building built in 1922. Zale Tabakman, president of Local Grown Salads, says the initiative hopes to create a systemic change in the community. “Windsor-Essex is a very agricultural integrated, manufacturing environment. The ag component of what I’m doing is very interesting to everybody here,” says Tabakman, founder and owner of Local Grown Salads. 

Windsor doesn’t have the same property value in other parts on Ontario, such as Toronto and surrounding area. “Rent and property is incredibly inexpensive. It’s a very good use of space but we’ve designed our systems to be cost competitive even in Toronto,” says Tabakman. 

Local Grown Salads’ vertical farm grows greens, peas, cucumbers, cherry/heritage tomatoes and strawberries. “Future consumers of this (food from the project) in the community will be able to benefit from nutritious high calorie food,” he says. 

The community members involved are currently fundraising for the farm and hoping to have it up and running in early January 2018. They already have the space and people to manage the project; Tabakman says the only thing remaining is a matter of getting funds together. “The execution will be very quick.” Once established the community itself would be producing the vegetables, the community will be responsible for harvesting, cleaning, prepping the food. The 2,000 sq. foot facility would be able to create about 500,000 salad meals a year “possibly more depending on operations. They can decide how to maximize the space to grow the appropriate type of foods possible for their clients.” 

English thyme grown on the vertical farm

One of Tabakman’s favorite things to grow is sorrel, a Russian green. “It’s like having a little drop of lemon. You can imagine how you can create a very tasty high calorie meal just using vegetables. From a nutrient dense point of view kale and arugula are almost as dense as meat.”

The ultimate goal for Science City is to create community not-for-profit hub, which will include the Local Grown Salads vertical farm. Food would be consumed by community members who are food insecure and also sold to traditional retailers and food service companies to support the operation of the building.

Jalapeno pepper grown on Tabakman's vertical farm

According to Tabakman, 1.2 billion pounds of leaf lettuce was grown in the US last year and 2.5 billion pounds of romaine. “If I were to set up my farms doing salads and vegetables I could produce I would need 1,600 farms just to support the city of Toronto – that’s the benefit of indoor vertical farming.” Moving forward into the for-profit sector, Local Grown Salads is focused on a SQF standard ready-to eat-salad. (HCAP). The food-safe ready grow unit system is designed to fit into a standard 14-foot ceiling warehouse. 

Tabakman is currently doing presentations to investors and groups across the country and overseas to generate interest to raise money to set up his first SQF vertical farm, which will be located in Ontario between Windsor and Toronto.

For more information:
Zale Tabakman
Local Grown Salads