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Our thoughts about things that interest, inspire, and motivate us.

Inspire


One of the truly beau­ti­ful things about the Lufa Farms con­cept is its begin­nings in every-day con­ver­sa­tions about an every-day need: food – where was it com­ing from and how were peo­ple get­ting it?

Lufa Farms

Lufa Farms struc­ture built on top of a pre-existing building

The Lufa Farms green­house is a pro­to­type: a 31,000 square-foot rooftop farm located in Ahuntsic-Cartierville in the north of the Island of Mon­treal. After four and a half years of aid from con­sul­tants, engi­neers, archi­tects, plant sci­en­tists and farm­ing experts, Lufa launched the real­ity of deliv­er­ing over 25 types of fresh pro­duce with­out the use of arti­fi­cial pes­ti­cides, fungi­cides or her­bi­cides to hun­dreds of urban dwellers in Mon­treal in 2011. One of the truly beau­ti­ful things about the Lufa Farms con­cept is its begin­nings in every-day con­ver­sa­tions about an every-day need: food – where was it com­ing from and how were peo­ple get­ting it?

Rows of delicious hydroponically-grown tomatoes

Rows of deli­cious hydroponically-grown tomatoes

Lufa’s founder and pres­i­dent, Mohammed Hage wants to change the way Mon­treal­ers (and all urban-dwellers) acquire their food and what pro­duce they’re con­sum­ing. While its cho­sen sys­tem of hydro­ponic agri­cul­ture is not con­sid­ered organic, it has proved to be a highly effi­cient method for urban agri­cul­ture and pro­vides the farm with fur­ther means of eco-efficiency by way of water man­age­ment. Lufa avoids plac­ing addi­tional stress on the urban water sup­ply by cap­tur­ing rain­wa­ter and re-circulating all of the irri­ga­tion water. That’s the just the tip of the ice­berg, this type of farm goes far beyond its fruits and veg­eta­bles in terms of its pos­i­tive envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits. Land pre­vi­ously lost to urban devel­op­ment is now being farmed again and the green­house con­cur­rently helps to elim­i­nate the urban heat island effect. Dis­tance, time, and han­dling of food between farm and con­sumer are all min­i­mized result­ing in reduced total trans­porta­tion costs as well as less green­house gas emis­sions. The result is highly nutri­tious and freshly picked veg­eta­bles brought into homes in place of shipped and arti­fi­cially ripened pro­duce. Lufa’s waste is min­i­mized and actu­ally turned into a social ben­e­fit as what­ever pro­duce isn’t sold is donated to var­i­ous char­i­ties, orga­ni­za­tions and the farm’s staff. Per­haps the most mean­ing­ful ben­e­fit of Lufa’s oper­a­tion is that the con­sumer, even the most urban one, is now re-integrated into a rela­tion­ship with a local farm. This type of project brings its col­lab­o­ra­tors, staff and cus­tomers closer to under­stand­ing where food comes from and can trans­late that expe­ri­ence to other sit­u­a­tions and make fur­ther informed lifestyle and pur­chas­ing deci­sions that are grounded in sustainability.

From left: DE's Anders Bell and David Oswald pictured alongside Claire Gérain-Lajoie and Mohamed Hage from Lufa Farms

From left: DE’s Anders Bell and David Oswald pic­tured along­side Claire Gérain-Lajoie and Mohamed Hage from Lufa Farms

With the aver­age pop­u­la­tion of its largest cities being close to 3.5 mil­lion, the poten­tial for this type of project through­out North Amer­ica is vast. Mr. Hage indi­cated that Toronto, Boston and Chicago are just some of the places that have shown inter­est in this project. As he said him­self, “this is about feed­ing 7 bil­lion peo­ple with food, not feed­ing them with plas­tic”. As Lufa begins plan­ning its next project, a farm five times the size of the cur­rent green­house, every­one from pay­ing cus­tomers to urban plan­ners and politi­cians should con­sider what prac­ti­cal exam­ples related to sus­tain­able urban and agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment exist in their own communities.

The greenhouse is divided into separate climatic zones. Zone 1 is reserved for herbs, arugula, lettuce, swiss chard and bok choi

The green­house is divided into sep­a­rate cli­matic zones. Zone 1 is reserved for herbs, arugula, let­tuce, swiss chard and bok choi

DE had the plea­sure of attend­ing one of Lufa’s VIP events this sum­mer to get to know the farm bet­ter and to meet with Mohammed Hage as well as one of its work­ers who has been involved from the very begin­ning, Claire Gérain-Lajoie. Con­tained to a secure area of ‘Zone 2’ to pre­vent the risk of inva­sive species we may have been car­ry­ing, vis­i­tors learned about the dif­fer­ent cli­mates the green­house reg­u­lated in its two dif­fer­ent zones for its var­i­ous pro­duce. Zone 1 is reserved for herbs, arugula, let­tuce, swiss chard and bok choi, and Zone 2 is used for pro­duc­ing toma­toes, egg­plants, pep­pers and cucum­bers. Tem­per­a­ture is reg­u­lated by an evap­o­ra­tive cool­ing sys­tem and lamps are used to help con­trol heat.

Claire Gérain-Lajoie of Lufa Farms hands out some tasty samples

Claire Gérain-Lajoie of Lufa Farms hands out some tasty samples

When speak­ing with Ms. Gérain-Lajoie on the chal­lenges of her post, her imme­di­ate response was the issue of hav­ing to think of new method­i­cal ways to accom­plish tasks more effi­ciently as demand increases. The Lufa team is very con­scious of energy effi­ciency and work­ing with a small and ded­i­cated team man­ag­ing a large oper­a­tion. This bal­ance of effi­cient and effec­tive man­age­ment is crit­i­cal to the farm’s growth and suc­cess. It is clear that every­one involved has fallen in love. “There is a greater per­sonal reward more than a mar­ket reward” said Claire when dis­cussing the pur­suit of build­ing a healthy soci­ety and cre­at­ing part­ner­ships between enter­prises and indi­vid­u­als. “I appre­ci­ate the sym­bi­otic rela­tion­ship: a work­ing rela­tion­ship that respects your values”.

Lufa Farms' logo and ethos: Fresh, local, responsible

Lufa Farms

The cur­rent 31,000 ft2 space employs nine peo­ple to work in the green­house and nine more on the design, engi­neer­ing, archi­tec­ture and imple­men­ta­tion team. On work­ing in the space itself, Mohammed Hage stressed the impor­tance that “it’s not Kum­baya”, explain­ing that some peo­ple who have come and tried to work or vol­un­teer have left because they had a dif­fer­ent idea, a roman­tic notion of ‘the farm’. He stated, “This is about help­ing cities become self-sufficient in food pro­duc­tion”, which is no small feat and requires a lot of hard work.

Check out more pho­tos from our visit to Lufa Farms on Flickr!