What is in this article?:
- Montreal Greenhouse Operator Eyes U.S. Cities
- Similar to CSA
“The farther the producer is from the consumer, the more opportunity for problems of every kind.”
— Kurt Lynn, vice president and co-founder, Lufa Farms
The 31,000-square-foot Lufa rooftop greenhouse uses a “drip-irrigation” hydroponic process. Photo courtesy of Lufa Farms
Similar to CSA
Lufa’s business model is similar to that of community supported agriculture (CSA), selling produce baskets on a weekly basis directly to consumers, who make selections on Lufa’s website (lufa.com) and pick up their goods at local drop-off points. The drop-off locations consist of about 18 local retail stores (food retail, health food stores and cafes), private offices and community centers. The retailers, who are not paid by Lufa, “benefit from the additional traffic,” said Lynn. Lufa also sells mostly greens to local restaurants.
Lufa is engaged in “early discussions” with Metro here, which operates 430 corporate stores in Canada, about testing its stores as drop-off points for Lufa, and possibly supporting Lufa greenhouses on the roofs of new stores, said Lynn.
Lufa does not have the scale to sell produce directly to Metro or other retailers, but that could change with the company’s expansion to larger facilities, he noted. By contrast, Gotham Greens in Brooklyn sells the lettuce and herbs it grows in a hydroponic rooftop greenhouse to local food retailers, including D’Agostino and Whole Foods Market.
Read more: Up on the Roof: Urban Agriculture
The initial Lufa greenhouse, a 31,000-square-foot structure located atop a two-story light-industrial building near Marche Central in Montreal, produces more than 75 tons of vegetables per year, said Lynn. (That’s about 10 to 15 times more than the equivalent space of a conventional farm.) Among the more than two-dozen varieties of crops are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, leafy greens, bok choy, chards and herbs. The operation now has about 1,300 customers, but Hage envisions serving more than 5,000 families after the projected expansion is completed.
In addition to its own rooftop-grown items, Lufa offers organic root vegetables and fruit grown by local Quebec farmers that are not amenable to rooftop farming. All rooftop produce is harvested the same day as delivery — what Lynn called “just-in-time harvesting” — and both rooftop and local products are described as herbicide-, pesticide- and fungicide-free.
Lufa’s baskets range in price from $22 to $42 per week, with individual products averaging between $2.80 and $3.80 per pound. Its prices “compare favorably” to those of conventional organic produce but may be higher in the summer than locally grown goods, said Lynn. The baskets’ contents depend on growing conditions and other factors.
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