Vertical Farming Company Looks to Replace Imported Produce at Canadian Grocers with Homegrown Varieties [Interview]

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Welland, Ontario-based Vision Greens, a vertical farming startup, has raised $7 million from investors to grow its business with a mission to improve Canada’s food system by disrupting the multi-billion dollar lettuce import market.

With the investment, Vision Greens will expand its operations to grow 700,000 pounds of saleable produce annually and scale distribution to leading grocers and meal kit companies that currently include Metro, Pusateri’s, and Goodfood.

Vision Greens’ Foodland Ontario certified produce is grown, harvested and packaged at its Welland farm and travels less than 200 kilometres –  or 92 per cent less food kilometres than imported lettuce to get from farm to table. The company grows its produce 365-days a year to provide consumers with fresh from the farm food, year round. 

“Each year, Canada imports 559 million pounds or about $2.2 billion worth of lettuce from thousands of miles away. This funding is already helping us deliver on our mission to help fix Canada’s broken food system and replace imported produce with clean food that’s better tasting. Now we can meet increased demand from leading grocers and are on track to capture double digit market share over the next few years,” said Lenny Louis, CEO, Vision Greens, former Tesla Country Director and Microsoft veteran. 

Vision Greens at Pusateri’s (Image: Vision Greens)

Vision Greens was founded in January 2020. 

Lenny Louis

“We’re a vertical farm company. It is growing crops indoors in stacked layers. That’s really the gist of what vertical farming does. The complexity comes in that you’re controlling an environment to grow plants to perfection. And you have 26 harvests versus two harvests,” said Louis. 

The facility is located in Welland in the Niagara region. With the growing area stacked, it gives the equivalent of about 25,000 square feet of total growing area. 

Louis said the company is currently servicing mostly in Ontario. 

“Part of the reason when we got into vertical farming the intent was can we create premium food without the premium pricing. People want the whole no pesticides and sustainable and low carbon footprint but they’re not willing to pay double or even a premium at the point of sale,” he said.

Vision Greens at Metro (Image: Vision Greens)
Vision Greens at Metro (Image: Vision Greens)

“So if you’re going to create food and create it for the masses it has to be at an affordable price. We want to democratize premium food for the masses.”

Louis said the company intends to grow its business to other markets.

“If you just take lettuce, Canada is one of the largest lettuce importers in the world, if not the largest,” he said. 

“We intend to at least have facilities in the major cities where we can access the most consumers. We’re in Welland which services the GTA. But we’ll be in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary over the next three to five years.”

The new funding puts Vision Greens another step closer to achieving its plan to be the number one consumer choice for lettuce, with the largest market share for locally grown greens in Canada, said the company. Lettuce is among the top 10 fresh vegetables consumed by Canadians with most coming from Mexico and California. In fact, the average lettuce sold in Canada travels as much as 3,000 kilometres and can take weeks to reach the end consumer, it said.  

Vision Greens at Summerhill Market (Image: Vision Greens)

“Vision Greens was founded by a group of accomplished business leaders concerned by mounting issues associated with imported produce, that include questionable food safety standards, lack of food traceability, increased chances of contamination, carbon emissions and poor quality. They recognized the opportunity to address these concerns through vertical farming and worked to develop a proprietary methodology for producing delicious, locally grown, non-GMO, pesticide-free, clean leafy greens at an affordable scale,” it said.

“Vision Greens leverages the latest in agtech from the University of Guelph, and Norwegian innovator, Intravision, that combined with its proprietary processes, enables it to grow high quality food at the lowest possible cost. This is a major feat considering many other vertical farms struggle with crippling operating costs that drive up price and make thriving in the consumer packaged goods market challenging.” 

The company said it uses 95 per cent less water and land than traditional farming methods

Vision Greens product line up includes: Crunchy Green Leaf Lettuce, Fancy Premium Lettuce Mix, Crispy Baby Romaine Lettuce, Crunchy Red Leaf Lettuce, Zesty Arugula and Living Genovese Basil.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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