You probably wouldn’t expect to find a farm on the roof of your local supermarket.
“People don’t believe that we can grow veggies on a rooftop,” laughs Carl Pichette, marketing vice-president for Sobeys Quebec.
But that’s exactly what an IGA supermarket in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent is doing. They have planted a 23,000-square foot rooftop garden that shoppers can spot from the parking lot. This is the garden’s third year of operation.
“Consumers are looking for fresh ingredients,” Pichette explains, “but if you can grow your own vegetables, organic, on your rooftop, that makes it very strong for the consumer.”
“They start in the spring and grow 30 different kinds of fruit and vegetables that vary throughout the season. Like leafy greens — kale, parsley and chard, that like the cooler weather, as well as others that do better in the heat.
“So right now, what’s sorta coming in is the tomatoes,” Time Murphy tells Global News. He works for Ligne Verte, the company that runs the farm in partnership with the supermarket. “The eggplants are beautiful, the peppers will be not far behind, hot peppers, basil, strawberries.”
Customers can see the produce on a screen in the store and order what they want. While they wait, they can watch what’s happening in the garden via a live-camera feed.
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“From there, you have a runner that comes and brings all the orders for the client directly in a box over here,” says Xavier Gomez who runs the kiosk where shoppers can place their order. It all happens within five minutes.
Pichette says 95 per cent of what is grown is sold.
“It’s not more expensive to buy those organic products than other organic products that we have,” he says.
Murphy says one of the best sellers is a salad mix that they call their “spring mix.” We sell around 200 to 300 units in our little clamshells,” he says.
One shopper seems satisfied so far. Michel Saint-Georges says he started buying the vegetables last year because it makes sense ecologically.
“That’s something I speak to my friends about,” he says. “Actually, several of our friends have started to come here to take advantage of the roof products. “Yeah!”
Company officials say they want to continue to grow a variety of produce and are willing to try new things — even flowers.