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


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.

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!