Local Leaf Farms has opened its first vertical family facility in Barrie, Ont. The location is one of 20 the company plans to open by 2025, including a second operation in Kingston, Ont.
The Barrie, Ont. location services grocery stores, food service providers and home meal kit providers within 50 km of the farm. All of the produce, which is sold under the My Local Leaf brand, is pesticide- and herbicide-free, non-GMO and packaged in 100% plastic-free compostable packaging.
Alongside the launch, Local Leaf also released the findings of a study conducted by IPSOS that confirmed the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted the way Canadians are making decisions about food: according to the survey, 68 per cent of Canadians say the pandemic has made food safety more important to them and 47 per cent say locally produced food is today their top purchase driver.
“Canadian consumers are demanding greater transparency about the food they eat. And that demand has never been more urgent," says Steve Jones, president and CEO of Local Leaf Farms. "As we begin to consider a post-COVID reality, we need to have real discussions about the stability - and overall future - of food production in this country. Local Leaf is bringing leading-edge technology to the food sector to produce the fresh, safe and sustainable produce that Canadians are asking for."
Local Leaf says that the average package of leafy greens in Canadian grocery stores travels 3,000 km before it lands in a shopper's cart. This journey can take up to two weeks and can cause produce to lose up to 70 per cent of its nutritional value. Local Leaf Farms says its produce can be at local grocery stores just hours after it was harvested, not only because of proximity, but because, unlike any other produce sold in Canada, it can be 'drop shipped': delivered directly, without the need to pass through distribution centres, maximizing freshness and shelf life.
Local Leaf also offers a fully traceable food source, with instant access to information about the food from seed to shelf. The company's proprietary technology and mobile app allow retailers and consumers to know exactly where their produce comes from, including detailed information on how it was grown, when and by whom. The farm, which includes an 20,000 square foot community garden, is even open to the public once a month, allowing people to see and connect with their food.
Of particular importance in our current reality, vertical farms like Local Leaf eliminate the need to rely on migrant labour - a workforce that has faced a severe threat in the face of COVID-19.