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Saskatoon company develops ‘space-age farming’ tech to grow crops indoors

Saskatoon company develops ‘space-age farming’ tech to grow crops indoors
WATCH ABOVE: Farm Boys Design Corp. creates customizable indoor ecosystems to produce fresh crops using automation.

Kale, radishes, chives and basil are among the leafy greens and herbs growing in a shipping container in a parking lot at Innovation Place in Saskatoon.

It’s the first prototype unit that Farm Boys Design Corp. has been using for testing purposes in the past year.

“It initially started as a basic idea of having affordable food in areas where it’s hard to get fresh produce,” Farm Boys CEO Chad Fischl said.

The AeroPod prototype has been used for testing purposes for the last year.
The AeroPod prototype has been used for testing purposes for the last year. Devin Sauer / Global News

The unit runs on automation, with the light, air and water controlled.

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“This environment is optimized to grow plants,” explained Lena Syrovy, the research and development agronomist with Farm Boys.

READ MORE: Look ma, no soil – Gardening with air, water, fish fertilizer (2015)

“The roots, actually most of the time, are exposed to air. The plants are in this Rockwool medium and the roots grow out of the Rockwool into the middle of these columns and then, based on a set schedule, the water and nutrient solution is pumped to the top of the columns and then it trickles over the roots.”

Fischl said the aeroponic system Farm Boys created uses up to 98 per cent less water than growing crops outdoors.

Leafy greens, microgreens and herbs are growing in the AeroPod prototype.
Leafy greens, microgreens and herbs are growing in the AeroPod prototype. Devin Sauer / Global News

Farm Boys plans to work with communities in the Middle East and Northern Canada next year, according to Fischl.

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“We’re just trying to make fresh produce that traditionally comes from areas like California and places like Central America, more readily available to areas like the north, so you can get highly nutritious, nutrient dense food in areas of the north that doesn’t have to get transported,” Fischl said.

The company has been in talks with the country of Qatar to start a pilot facility there in early 2019.

READ MORE: Soil-free gardens at Grant MacEwan growing fast (2015)

Fischl said there is also a big opportunity for the units to be used by licensed producers in the cannabis industry.

“With the new micro cultivation rules, where you can grow in a smaller setting, a smaller foot print,” Fischl said. “Something like this has great application for that.”

Herbs, such as chives, can be grown with the Farm Boys automation technology.
Herbs, such as chives, can be grown with the Farm Boys automation technology. Devin Sauer / Global News

“The idea of space-age farming is what we’re after,” Fischl said.

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“It’s about automation and it’s about growing in an effective way that can be reproduced on a massive scale.”

WATCH: Saskatoon hydroponic farm switching from vegetables to cannabis

Saskatoon hydroponic farm switching from vegetables to cannabis
Saskatoon hydroponic farm switching from vegetables to cannabis