Sky’s The Limit For Rooftop Farm Project

Via The Montreal Gazette, an interesting article on Lufa Farms, a company that is planning to open four new rooftop greenhouses in Laval, Montreal, Boston, and Toronto in the next year:

Sky’s the limit for rooftop farm project

The company that built the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse farm on a building in Ahuntsic is adding two new sites in Montreal and plans to take its concept global.

Lufa Farms, which opened a 32,000-square-foot greenhouse near the Marché Centrale last year, plans to open two more greenhouses in the Montreal region in 2013, and has begun working on expanding into Ontario and the United States, said company founder Mohamed Hage.

A new greenhouse will be built on a new building in Laval, and the second will likely be close to downtown Montreal, Hage said.

The company’s goal was to develop a new form of agriculture that used no land and minimal resources such as water and energy, Hage said. In just 18 months, he said, Lufa Farms has shown it is possible.

“Ever since we launched this project, we’ve been overwhelmed with demand from the public,” Hage said. “We believe that by adding our next two farms in Montreal we’ll be able to turn a large number of consumers toward local agriculture.”

Lufa’s existing greenhouse produces between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of food each day, and delivers 1,000 boxes of food to customers every week. Boxes of food cost between $22 and $42.

The Laval greenhouse would serve 5,000 people per week, while the new Montreal greenhouse would be about the same size as its existing greenhouse or smaller, Hage said.

Hage said Lufa Farms hopes its new kind of urban agriculture can be used in cities around the world.

“We want to show that this is a model not only for Montreal, but for other cities also,” Hage said. “Eventually our vision is to grow produce in multiple cities in multiple countries.”

The company is also working on plans to open a greenhouse in Boston or Toronto next year.

Rooftops represent an important area of potential growth for urban agriculture, said Joe Nasr, a lecturer at Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security.

“Roofs are basically wasted surfaces,” said Nasr, who co-wrote Carrot City, a book about urban agriculture in North America.

While many cities now boast rooftop gardens, rooftop greenhouses are not as common, although a few have begun operating in the past two or three years.

Vegetables destined for grocery stores are growing in at least three different rooftop greenhouses in New York’s Brooklyn borough. Last month, construction began on a rooftop greenhouse in Vancouver that is expected to produce between 150,000 and 200,000 pounds of produce a year.

In its report on urban agriculture in Montreal published this month, the city’s public-consultation office noted that urban greenhouses — on rooftops or the ground — could help to make certain urban spaces profitable and meet a growing demand from consumers for a variety of fresh and local foods.

A 2010 study found that urban agriculture could produce 10 per cent of Toronto’s fresh vegetable consumption by using a combination of about half rooftop gardens and greenhouses and half on-land gardens and farms.

New rooftop greenhouse projects have shown consumers that there is an alternative to large-scale industrial food production, Nasr said.

“There is a great variety of approaches that have emerged in just the past few years,” Nasr said. “They use sophisticated techniques and are placed in the middle of cities and I think that’s attracted the curiosity of a lot of people.”

Not all urban buildings are suitable for rooftop farms or greenhouses though, Nasr said.

The main issue is whether the building can support the weight of a greenhouse, or whether work would be necessary to make it possible, Nasr said.

And it is expensive to set up a greenhouse — Lufa said its first greenhouse cost more than $2 million to set up.

Despite the costs, Nasr said, it is clear that the demand for locally-grown fresh food is not being met, and rooftop greenhouses, gardens and farms could supply that market.

“More and more people have questions about the existing agrifoods supply system, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon,” Nasr said. “People do look for alternatives, some focus on organic, some focus on local food, others try to cut back on meat. I think this will continue as a trend.

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About This Blog And Its Author
As potential uses for building and parking lot roofspace continue to grow, unique opportunities to understand and profit from this trend will emerge. Roof Options is committed to tracking the evolving uses of roof estate – spanning solar power, rainwater harvesting, wind power, gardens & farms, “cooling” sites, advertising, apiculture, and telecom transmission platforms – to help unlock the nascent, complex, and expanding roofspace asset class.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy. Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation. He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”