Firm to unveil hydroponic growing unit
Offers supply of fresh, nutritious, delicious produce for customers in challenging climates
Home Hydroponic Growing Unit | Martin Cash |
IMAGE: RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSBased in Winnipeg and Vancouver, Les Verts Living developed its innovative soil-free, pesticide-free and stress-free hydroponic growing system called the Terrace Pro with the help of resources and expertise from RRC Polytech’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM) and Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK).
A new Winnipeg company, called Les Verts Living, will be unveiling its new hydroponic growing unit at this weekend’s Winnipeg Renovation Show.
It’s been in development for six years and received substantial input from a couple of applied research divisions at RRC Polytech who held a sneak peak of the handsome three-tiered unit called the Terrace Pro on Thursday.
With the goal of supplying fresh, nutritious, delicious produce for customers in challenging climates, Les Verts officials believe the $3,750 units will pay for themselves in one to three years.
Kerry Green and Geoff Gyles, two of the eight company founders and owners, had previously built another plant nutrient company, called Wolf Trax Inc., that was sold to a large U.S. salt and minerals company in 2014.
Green said they were able to use similar expertise in developing the Terrace Pro.
“It’s all agriculture, indoor or outdoor,” he said.
While there are many other hydroponic growing systems on the market, Green believes they have done all the science to make it work, including providing the seeds — which have already been proven to grow successfully in the unit — and nutrients and guidelines on lighting and growing cycles so that whoever uses it will be successful.
It took them six years to get to this point and while Green and Gyles were first developing the business they were thinking of scaling up their own in-house growing system and selling the produce (rather than the hydroponic unit).
“But as we got into it and researched the market we found that every time a small hydroponics entity tried to get large selling their produce they failed and ran out of money,” he said. “That concept does not scale the way most things do.”
They continue to sell the produce grown from their test units through a Community Supported Agriculture venture, because Green said did not want to see the produce wasted.
As Green and Gyles became focused on commercially producing the growing unit, they brought on other partners from Vancouver who had been running a company, called Enterra Feed, growing black soldier flies for protein for animal feed.
Andrew Vickerson is part of that group and is now the CEO of Les Verts Living.
Les Verts Living’s ownership team — all eight of its employees are also the company owners — includes two groups of winners of the prestigious Manning Innovations Award. Green and Gyles won in 2014 and Vickerson and his partners won in 2019.)
Vickerson said the combination of the expertise in-house means the Terrace Pro will prove to be a successful product.
“Other hydroponic units on the market we have found were all missing something — light, nutrients or the wrong varieties,” he said. “We’ve done all the agricultural science to figure out how it all works together and we’ve curated unique varieties that work well in the hydroponic system.”
As well as cutting the cost of lettuce in half and having access to unique varieties of herbs and other leafy green vegetables, the unit will address the issue of waste. Their lettuce can stay fresh for two weeks as opposed to two days for the store bought produce.
“Leafy greens are the most wasted food commodity in the world,” Vickerson said. “More than half of what is grown around the world is wasted before it gets to the table.”
Mavis McRae, director of RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen, said her lab will be using the unit for all sorts of research projects for the next year.
“It’s a beautiful unit and the produce is stunning,” she said. “We put through a lot of students per year and each of them will go out in the field as influencers and they’ll get the chance to use it and talk it up as well.”
In addition to the food research at Prairie Research Kitchen, Les Verts Living also received valuable product development support from RRC Polytech’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing.
Green said the support from RRC was extremely beneficial.
“We’re a privately funded operation,” he said. “This is the second time we’ve done this (after Wolf Trax) and these sorts of programs really help the small entrepreneurs starting up.”
With a booth at the Winnipeg Renovation Show this weekend, Green said, “We are now looking to start generating revenue.”
The company’s target market at the outset is broad. They are looking at restaurants and community organizations as well as individual families.
It has a two-tiered model now available and in the spring will come out with a much smaller version.
The two foot-by-four foot units are being manufactured in B.C. and Green said when production starts ramping up it will look to start up another site in Manitoba.
Original Article Here: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/2024/01/11/firm-to-unveil-hydroponic-growing-unit