Ottawa’s Growcer makes vertical farming accessible to those with physical challenges
Wheelchair Accessible Vertical Farming | Brian Dryden |
Ottawa-based startup Growcer has partnered with two non-profits to help make its vertical farming system more accessible to people with physical challenges, including people in wheelchairs.
Vertical farming — a year-round system that grows more using less space — doesn’t lend itself to a spacious or accessible work environment, given that the technology is often narrow and tall. However, modifications can unlock opportunities for operators with disabilities and make vertical farming more accessible, according to Growcer’s communications coordinator Stephanie Gordon.
Growcer partnered with Toronto-based Reena Foundation, which promotes dignity and inclusion for people with diverse mental and physical abilities, and the Rick Hansen Foundation, which creates and delivers innovative solutions to remove barriers and liberate the potential of people with disabilities, to develop the first accessible modular vertical farm in Canada.
“We are now diversifying our technology. We have a fully accessible-to-wheelchairs farm that we are proud to have helped develop,” Growcer COO Alida Burke says. “We are always doing research on how we can meet our clients’ needs because our goal is to provide the opportunity for everyone to be able to farm and grow their own produce.
“When creating an accessible farm, we had to think of ways to overcome these barriers so an operator using a wheelchair would be able to work inside the vertical farm.”
Adam Fry, Growcer’s product manager who oversaw the project, says the company worked with a consultant recommended by the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify the project and provide guidance on how someone using a wheelchair would operate the farm.
“It was interesting to see how small details make a difference when designing a more accessible farm,” Fry says.
According to Growcer, the modifications it made to its traditional vertical farm design resulted in 33 per cent less growing space. However, the accessible farm can still grow more than 2,540 kgs of fresh produce year-round, the company says.
Growcer made its standard design more accessible by creating two wheelchair-turnaround locations at the front and back of the vertical farm and by adding a sliding door at the front.
According to Fred Winegust from Reena, the foundation was eager to help, while also realizing that changes could open up other markets for Growcer’s vertical farming product. Among the changes that Reena asked for were modifications to fittings for the intake of water and air to better shelter the interior from insects and outside contaminants. This allowed Reena to have the produce grown within the farm certified as kosher.
“It was the best ever win-win situation I’ve ever been involved with,” says Winegust.
Original Article: https://obj.ca/ottawas-growcer-vertical-farming-accessible/