Sobeys Quebec has signed a deal with Montreal area Urban Barns Food Inc. to test-market a line of organic lettuce, herbs and various micro greens grown indoors by a hi-tech form of cubic farming.
The produce is to be sold at six IGA stores in the Laurentiens and Montreal during an initial trial of three months.
Sobeys said the “venture which will allow Sobeys Quebec to fulfil its objective of offering its customers a variety of locally-grown, high-quality produce.”
Urban Barns CEO Richard Groome said the company, which was formed in 2009, is revolutionizing agriculture through its four-phase development of a indoor system of organic, pesticide free quick-growing local produce.
“It’s Star Trek meets the farm,” he said.
The company promises to deliver a mixture of lettuce and micro greens, including mini broccoli, kale, and basil, within hours of harvest and touts superior shelf life, flavour, nutrition and taste.
A head of lettuce wholesales for less than $2 and Groome said it has been heavily quality tested by some of the top restaurants and hotels in Montreal and Ottawa.
It takes about 21 days for Urban Barns to grow a lettuce in its facility near Mirabel Airport outside Montreal. Traditional farming can grow two heads of lettuce per sq. ft. per year, he says. Greenhouses do about 20 plants for sq. ft. per year. The cubic farming techniques being used and developed with the help of McGill University’s Macdonald College can produce almost 300 heads per sq ft and will, when the next generation is up and running late this year, produce almost 500 heads of lettuce per sq ft.
The greens are grown vertically on rotating trays, not unlike a rotisserie, where they are exposed to light and water.
The agreement is another push for Sobeys to enhance their organic and local offerings. It recently inked a deal with a local artisanal baker, Arhoma, after Metro bought Quebec’s largest artisanal bakery chain Premiere Moisson in June. Sobeys also own Quebec health-food chain Rachelle-Béry.