A lot of people have heard of the 100-mile diet. What about the 100-foot diet?
That idea relates to only eating foods grown within 100 feet of a restaurant, which may now be possible thanks to a new deal between The Growcer and Chartwells. Based in Ottawa, The Growcer is a smart-farming startup that builds vertical farms from reused shipping containers. The company has announced a partnership with Chartwells to begin setting up mini hydroponic farms at colleges and universities across Canada. Chartwells is the largest supplier of food services to post-secondary institutions in Canada, so students may actually be able to participate in their own 100-foot diet.
The Growcer utilizes highly-tuned climate controls along with advanced hydroponics to grow fresh produce in an extremely confined space. According to claims, this system uses 95 per cent less water than typical agricultural means and can grow up to 100 kilograms of produce each week—all without pesticides or chemicals. In total, the vegetables grown inside one Growcer container can supply up to 110 people every day for a year. With this new deal, the produce grown within the school containers will be sold directly to Chartwells, which will then prepare meals for students and other customers.
“We had the opportunity to partner with any of the companies in this space, but we chose Chartwells because of their commitment towards social and sustainable initiatives, their support around student innovation and leadership within their executive team and all the way to their front-line associates,” said Corey Ellis, co-founder and CEO of The Growcer. “Through our partnership with Chartwells, partner colleges and universities across Canada will benefit from having fresh, local and healthy produce grown only steps away from their food halls and cafeterias, no matter the weather. We’re excited that students will get to enjoy locally-grown, nutritious meals throughout the entire year.”
Already in place at the University of Ottawa, The Growcer’s signature shipping container farms have also been rolled out in nearly a dozen locations across the Arctic, offering a sustainable alternative to grow produce in extreme temperatures. In remote locations such as Churchill, Manitoba, The Growcer’s technology was largely to thank for the price reduction of a single head of lettuce from $7.00 to $3.99.
The ag-tech firm got its start at the University of Ottawa’s Enactus program, a social entrepreneurship initiative, and has been receiving investment and business advice from Invest Ottawa’s tech accelerator.
“The Growcer’s incredible growth is just beginning with the global adoption of indoor farming,” said Nick Quain, VP of Invest Ottawa. “More and more, we are seeing ag-tech innovations such as hydroponics being used to address food security challenges, rising population, food prices and shrinking arable land.”
The Growcer also appeared on Dragons’ Den in the middle of 2018, and Ellis (along with his other co-founder Alida Burke) walked away with a $250,000 equity deal, in exchange for 30 per cent of the company. As is typical with deals from the show, it has not been finalized yet and will most likely take shape later this year.