When designing the greenhouse, the Lufa Farms team investigated what conditions suit each type of food grown in order to maximize yield. They use a rainwater harvesting system to put a minimal burden on the cities water supply, and then recirculate the water used to irrigate the plants. For heating, the farm’s location on top of a heated building reduces its heating requirements, and the farmers have developed a technique of enclosing the plants in transparent curtains when the temperature drops. A natural gas heating system is in place, but is only called upon in the more extreme Montreal winter conditions.
Open since spring 2011, the commercial venture has reportedly broken even this year. Part of its success has come from the way the farmers have dispensed with the traditional supply chain. The farm has partnered with various sites and businesses around the city as designated drop-off points and the food baskets of fresh produce are sent to these locations at set times during the week. The reduction in distribution requirements over a 12 month period more than offsets the use of the natural gas heating in winter.
The Lufa Farm ethos has a natural aversion to using chemical fertilisers and pesticides in their growing processes, which is reflected in their choice of coconut husk fibre as a nutrient-rich bedding for the plants. And the farmers favor the use of biological pest controls instead of pesticides. The closed, rooftop environment also helps to reduce the need for synthetic pest control.
In the 18 months since it opened, weekly orders for Lufa Farms’ food baskets have grown ten-fold from when they opened, and they hope the continued success of this urban farm will lead to a leaner, greener urban food production system across Montreal and beyond.
via The Rake