Activity 13

Organic vertical farming vs. smart use of greenhouses


Since 2007, more than half of world population is living in urban areas, and it is expected to be over 70% by 2050 (Kozai et al., 2016). In 2016, it was reported that local food is one of the most important food trends of the decade in USA (National Restaurant Association, 2015), while sales of organic products keep growing at a rate of more than 10% per year. The demand for hyper-fresh, healthy and pesticide-free food (the “local food movement”) is driving demand for Controlled-Environment Agriculture systems (CEA) since they can be located in urban centers (Eaves & Eaves, 2017). In addition, the popularity of the vertical farming model is increasing with annual sales growing at 31% and expected to reach $4B by 2020 (ReportsnReports 2016).

The general objective of this study is to develop a smarter use of light, energy and natural resources to produce organic vegetables year-round, thereby reducing ecological footprints and increasing food and nutritional security, sustainability and farm competitiveness and profitability. This will be achieved by developing an "organic" accredited cropping system using Inno-3B's proprietary closed production technology (i.e. automated, scalable, remotely monitored/controlled growing chambers), and by the optimisation of organic greenhouse production via an improved use of LED lighting.

More specifically, in collaboration with the industry (Premier Tech, Inno-3B, L’Abri végétal, Les Serres Stéphane Bertrand, and Applied Bio-nomics) and research organizations (Laval University, AAFC-ARDT, IRDA), this study will:

1) develop and validate a vertical organic production system for a controlled-environment plant factory based on Inno-3B’s technology and new multiple level greenhouse growing systems. The system will be enabled by state of the art components with disease suppressive soil and LEDs adapted to organic horticulture crops,

2) evaluate the performance of these vertically grown organic crops in terms of their productivity, nutritional and flavor benefits over conventional commercial products,

3) determine the effect of different LED light spectra on biocontrol agents,

4) Identify the most cost effective/profitable CEA method for supplying affordable fresh produce, year round to different urban and peri-urban regions across Canada,

5) Evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed innovative organic vertical growing systems over conventional organic growing systems, and

6) Propose innovative, profitable and environmentally growing systems to Canadian producers which are in line with the six features of Organic 3.0 defined by IFOAM (Arbenz et al., 2016).

This project will specifically deliver optimized organic vertical farming (OVF)-CEA systems for the diversified production of organic vegetables via the integration of an optimized suppressive soil, the use of appropriate species/cultivars and lighting regime as well as the fertilization management to improve crop resilience, productivity and product quality, while minimizing the environmental footprint. OVF may also contribute significantly to the global challenge by reducing risks related to climate change (e.g. new invasive pests; extreme climate), and by contributing to food and nutritional security, including the First Nation communities. The intensification of greenhouse production investigated in this project will also contribute to increase productivity per cultivated area as well as organic sector competitiveness.

Arbenz Markus, Gould David and Stopes Christopher, 2016, Organic 3.0 – for truly sustainable farming and consumption, IFOAM Organics International, Bonn and SOAAN, Bonn.

Activity researchers

Martine Dorais, prof. (Activity Leader) ULaval, Dept. Phytologie
Steeve Pepin, prof. ULaval, Dept. of Soil & Agri-Food Engineering
Damien De Halleux, prof.  
Russell Tweddell, prof. ULaval, Dept Phytologie
James Eaves, prof. ULaval, Dept of management
Richard Hogue IRDA - Microbial Ecology Laboratory
Dr. Nicolas Gruyer MDDELCC - Director of the Biology and Microbiology department, Ecotoxicology Environmental Centre of the province of Quebec
Rémi Naasz Premier Tech
David Brault Inno-3B
Frederic Jobin-Lawler L’Abri vegetal, owner
Khalid Boulrhazioui Les Serres S. Bertrand
Agathe Vialle Biopterre – Centre de développement des bioproduits, un centre collégial de transfert de technologie (CCTT) - La Pocatière
Liette Lambert MAPAQ – Greenhouse crop and biological control
Beatrix Alsanius SLU Dept of Biosystems and Technology, Microbial Horticulture (Sweden)
Dr. Paul Abram AAFC- Agassiz RDT Entomologist – Biological control
Gary Telford AAFC- Agassiz RDT Entomologist – KTT
Dr. Isabelle Royer AAFC- Quebec RDC Soil scientist – soil contamination and organic fertilization