Building Strawberry Farms to Feed North America
“By the end of 2022, we will produce 1.3 million kilograms of strawberries between three facilities. We are not looking to replace summer production, so we will be down for three months and then in full production for nine months,” explains Yves Daoust, founder and COO of Winter Farm. The company is based outside of Montreal and specializes in the production of strawberries on vertical farms.
Winter Farm has designed a turnkey system for the production of strawberries and is looking for partnerships with other local producers, with the aim of installing its system alongside other production systems to introduce circularity. For example, Winter Farm seeks to locate its vertical farms next to other facilities so that the heat produced by the vertical farm can be captured and distributed to adjacent areas to reduce overall energy demand.
Rather than selling its patented system to growers, Winter Farm forms grower partnerships through which the company handles the financing, installation, and maintenance of the system while the growers simply manage strawberry production. Winter Farm then purchases the berries at a fixed price and markets them under the Winter Farm brand.
First commercial facility opened November 2021
In November 2021, Winter Farm inaugurated its first commercial facility in partnership with Les Serres Vaudreuil, just outside Montreal. The vertical farm built by Winter Farm spans 1150 square meters and includes 11 strawberry walls or modules. Each module has 14 rows of strawberries, which are 26 m long and stacked on top of each other. With this first unit, Winter Farm aims to produce 180 tons of strawberries per year between October and June.
As Yves explains, Winter Farm is currently building two additional facilities in 2022 and will produce around 1.3 million kg of strawberries. As the province of Quebec is already a major strawberry growing region during the summer months, Winter Farm focuses on marketing local strawberries during the winter months and selling local summer strawberries at the same price.
Using Vertical Trusses to Reduce Greenhouse Heating Costs
The installation of Winter Farm at Serres Vaudreuil will also present one of the main advantages of vertical farm-greenhouse partnerships, according to Yves. With its water-cooled LEDs and heat pump, Winter Farm will supply its excess heat to the adjacent greenhouse, reducing the greenhouse’s energy requirements for heating during the winter months.
Multiple government incentives are currently available to help farmers improve their energy efficiency. And as Yves explains, integrating vertical farms into greenhouses is an effective way to improve energy efficiency.
“Our vertical solution is eligible for various loans and financing programs focused on energy efficiency, water recycling and production efficiency,” explains Yves.
In addition to improving energy efficiency, Winter Farm is also focused on improving operational efficiency through automation and advanced sensor technology. Winter Farm offers agronomic support and advice thanks to the team’s agronomists, but is also working on the digitization of agronomic knowledge to eventually develop digital analysis tools to detect crop problems.
“Teaching a machine to diagnose a disease does not happen overnight. Innovation comes from observing plants with modern techniques. There are many products working on mapping or detection software. It’s about the plants and making sure they’re healthy,” says Yves.
Winter Farm is currently focused on the North American market, although the business has attracted interest from various overseas countries.
For more information:
Daphné Mailhot, Marketing & Communications Manager