Lufa Farms: Fresh, Local, Responsible

Our vision is a city of rooftop farms


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Montréal Québec
CA Canada


About the project Edit

THE IDEA FOR LUFA FARMS grew out of numerous discussions that I and Kurt Lynn, a consultant friend of mine, had about food. It seems that every time we sat down for lunch or dinner or coffee, we would end up talking about some aspect of food. Fresh food. Local food. Taste. Safety. Importing food. Exporting food. Organic foods. GMO foods. Exotic foods. Which grocery had the best. Which had the worst. Which had the freshest, and so on.

OUR PROTOTYPE FARM IS A 31,000 SQUARE FOOT GREENHOUSE ON TOP OF A MONTREAL OFFICE BUILDING located at 1400 Antonio Barbeau in Ahuntsic-Cartierville. It is specially designed to provide the optimum environment for more than 25 varieties of vegetables and does so without using artificial pesticides, fungicides or herbicides of any type. This first version is designed to model our vision of responsible agriculture.

OUR VISION IS A CITY FULL OF ROOFTOP FARMS. Some see our farm as small, but it has a big potential. It does more than grow vegetables. It allows land previously lost to urban development to be farmed again. Its year-around farming operations help and the roofs they protect will combat the warming of our cities. It minimizes the distance, time, and handling of food between you and us and it allows us to grow traditional and highly nutritious produce instead of only semi-tasteless varieties that ship and store well. Not least, it directly involves the consumer in a relationship with a local farm. We plan to build more farms like and to continue to evolve the research and development of urban rooftop agriculture.

WITH YOUR PATRONAGE AND SUPPORT, our new type of farm and our vision can redefine the way food is grown and consumed. Help us make it a success and a model.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

We’ve Created A New Approach to Food Production

It works like this:

We Grow more than 25 varieties of vegetables and fresh produce in our rooftop farm for local consumers. We also provide root vegetables and certain natural produce items from other local Quebec farmers.

You Choose the Lufa Farms fresh produce basket service you would like to receive on a weekly basis Lufa Farms offers you several basket services that contain different types and quantities of fresh local produce.

You Can Customize your produce basket service after you sign up by logging onto your account. You can specify additional item(s) you would like to receive and we will add them to your next delivery.

We Deliver Your Food Basket to a group “drop-off” location or you can pick up your basket at the farm. If you’re out of town or on vacation, let us know and we’ll reschedule your shipment or redirect it for you. For seniors or the disabled, we will deliver to your home for a small fee.

You, Your Co-Workers, Neighbors or Club Can Form a Delivery Group and get free delivery and savings. Team up with other Lufa Farms subscribers or invite other individuals to join you. It’s easy. Click here to find out how

Payment is made for Lufa fresh produce baskets in 12-week intervals. A credit card is required at signup but other payments methods can be accommodated.

You Participate in Our Programs including our greenhouse tours, crop selection discussions, seminars on do-it-yourself city farms, and our refer-a-friend program. Learn more about our programs by clicking here

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The engineering and structure of the greenhouse
Our rooftop greenhouse is not like other greenhouses that you may have seen elsewhere. To be suitable for an urban rooftop, our greenhouse had to be stronger, able to withstand greater snow loads and to meet exacting urban building codes. Our basic greenhouse design has also been created with the goal of easily integrating into both new construction and existing buildings.

The climates of the greenhouse
Again, unlike typical greenhouses, Lufa Farms’ greenhouse provides multiple growing climates for the vegetables cultivated within it. It provides hot areas for some vegetables, cool areas for others, and several “micro-climates” within each. In this way, the greenhouse optimizes the growing conditions for its plants.

Alternatives to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides
We have a profound aversion to the use of unnatural means of combatting insects, fungi, or weeks. Instead we focus on the use of alternative remedies for these problems. These include the use of other insects, certain naturally-occurring bacteria, use of weed-free growing mediums, and rigid protocols for maintaining a clean, problem-free growing area.

The growing method
Our farm uses several different growing methods. Essentially, what we try to do is to select the growing method that is best for each type of plant. This means that the soil or medium the plants are grown in, the nutrients they are provided, the type of irrigation, the amount of light they receive and the temperature are all carefully regulated and monitored to give them just what they want. We are also engaged in several research projects focused on further optimization of our growing methods.

Our plants
Not least in the science of our farm is the selection of the “cultivars” we use for each vegetables. We do not use genetically-modified cultivars but even so, there are thousands of natural varieties to choose from! We choose the varieties we wish to grow on the basis of taste preferences and nutritional value. Together with McGill University, we have developed special methods of assaying these values so that we can ensure that our vegetables will be better than what you might typically buy.

Management of water
Water is a scarce resource. We treat it that way. We capture rainwater that falls on the greenhouse and we recirculate water that we use in the irrigation of our plants. There are several reasons we do this. We wish to put the minimum burden on the city – both in use of water and disposal of used water and we do not wish to put any nutrient-rich water into the public water supply where it might contribute to high algae growth or other plant overgrowth.

Management of energy
Farming in the city and on a building saves us money, energy and emissions. Our heating systems are designed to absorb as much natural heat from the sun and the building before supplementing with high efficiency boilers. Our automated systems automatically deploy energy curtains during the night time to further cut down on our energy needs. Being in the city close to our consumers and on the roof of a heated building, we employ the best in greenhouse energy savings technology. We believe that we are able to grow and distribute high quality vegetables using half the energy required by traditional growers and distribution. We expect to keep pushing the edge of the energy envelope by employing other energy saving technologies.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The Science Underneath

Our urban greenhouse farm is much more than a place to grow vegetables. It represents a vast amount of science that is being developed and combined to optimize urban growing conditions for our plants and to do so in an environmentally sustainable and responsible way. There are many different elements to the science underneath our greenhouse innovations. Our ultimate goal is to develop a turnkey urban farm paradigm that can be implemented in any North American city.

A Lufa Farm on Your Roof?

Our farm on Antonio-Barbeau is the first and a prototype for larger, expanded farms that we expect to build in Montreal and in other cities in Canada and the United States. If you are a building owner, or if you are planning the construction or renovation for a new building, there are many possible benefits in considering a farm for your roof. These include the following:

• Opportunity for new income from roof spaces
• Improved insulation and reduced heating/cooking expense
• Potential LEED points
• Increasing the “green” profile of your development by supporting a more sustainable way of farming
• For residential construction, providing residents with access to exceptional fresh produce
• Differentiating your building in the marketplace

Our criteria
To consider a building for farm development we are looking for spaces larger than 40,000 square feet in size – preferably 100,000 square feet or bigger. We need to know something about the nature of the building. Please fill out the questionnaire here and we will contact you with details.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

ALL OUR DISCUSSIONS EVENTUALLY BOILED DOWN TO WHY IT WAS SO DIFFICULT TO FIND AND GET FRESH AND HIGH QUALITY FOOD IN MONTREAL. We concluded that the fundamental problem getting fresh food was that food is often grown far away from where it is eaten. This meant that our food – whether grown in Quebec or in South Africa – would be handled, packaged, shipped, stored, refrigerated and reshipped perhaps dozens of times before it could appear on our dinner plates. And all along the way, it would become less fresh, less nutritious, less tasty, and be exposed to more potential hazards. The obvious truth was that it would be almost impossible to be truly fresh.

I DECIDED THAT MONTREAL NEEDED A NEW KIND OF FARM – a local farm. A very local farm. A farm right in the city, and a farm that would provide the freshest, tastiest, most nutritious and most local food available in Montreal. My thinking was that we could grow fresh produce in the city, grow it in a safe and responsible way, and make it available to consumers within 24 hours. (How fresh can you get!) The more I talked about it with Kurt and others, the more excited I became.

THAT WAS THE BEGINNING. Over the next few years, and with the help of Kurt, Howard and dozens of engineers, architects, plant scientists, and farming experts, we made it a reality. This year (2011), our first prototype farm – our city farm – will begin delivering the freshest, tastiest, most nutritious and most local food available anywhere in the city of Montreal.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Our Quebec Farmers

Lufa Farms provides products from a number of local Quebec farms. We do this because there are certain vegetables which cannot currently be grown in our greenhouse, and because we want our customers to have access to a broad variety of local seasonal items as well as our uniquely fresh produce.

We provide information on the Quebec farms that provide us produce because we want our clients to know who they are, and to know that by buying our baskets you are providing support for them as well. Read about them here

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