Canada-based Elevate Farms has entered into an agreement with North Star Agriculture Corp. for an initial buildout commitment of $10 million (USD) to bring Elevate’s vertical farming technology to isolated parts of Northern Canada. The two companies will develop a series of large-scale automated vertical farming facilities in the Yukon and other Canadian territories. The farms will produce about 1 million pounds of leafy greens per year.
Elevate uses a proprietary vertical farming system that relies on hydroponics, patented LED technology, and automation to grow leafy greens and herbs in climate-controlled environments. Like other vertical farming companies, the company claims its indoor agricultural methods use less resources (e.g., water) and require less human labor, which is in major shortage in the agricultural industry right now.
The company closed a $1.8 million seed round led by Brightspark Ventures in February of this year.
Elevate founder and CEO Amin Jadavji said in this week’s press release that the buildout of these new farming facilities will bring more food security and nutrition to “particularly isolated and vulnerable regions of Canada.”
Food security in Northern Canada is a major issue, as communities tend to be remote and food distribution is more difficult and expensive than it would be in more densely populated regions. There’s also the fact that you can’t grow produce outdoors 24/7 based on the climate of the area. North Star Agriculture Group, which is based in the Yukon city of Whitehorse, has been especially active in raising the volume on the dialogue about food insecurity and looking for ways to bring more agricultural infrastructure to the region.
While leafy greens by themselves can’t save an insecure food system (man cannot live by basil alone), of all the produce types, they tend to be the most delicate and perishable, which makes them a priority when it comes to providing food locally.
At the same time, vertical farming is at a point where it needs to prove itself in terms of its ability to provide fresh, local food to surrounding communities at affordable prices. To do that, companies will need to be able to scale to the levels of producing millions of heads of lettuce without incurring astronomical expenditures themselves.
Up to now, most large-scale vertical farming operations are in or nearby large cities and supply grocery stores and specialty food markets. If the partnership between Elevate and North Start Agriculture Corp. proves plentiful (literally and figuratively), it could be the blueprint for a new use case for large-scale vertical farming, and further evolve the technology’s role in the future of the agricultural system.