One of Quebec’s newest strawberry farms can be found, of all places, in the heart of Brossard’s industrial sector.
In its windowless South Shore facility, Ferme D’Hiver can produce an estimated one ton of fresh strawberries within a six-week period during the winter months.
“We’re taking advantage of our natural resources,” Ferme D’Hiver CEO Yves Daoust said.
“Farmers in one hand and cheap hydroelectricity in the other, all to produce something we could only find in the summer season: strawberries.”
Using a technique called vertical farming, the small indoor space houses 3,000 strawberry plants.
Compared to a normal greenhouse, this method of stacking the fruit and vegetables allows a harvest with nine times more yield using the same square footage, according to Daoust.
Blinding bright lights imitate the sun and are on for an optimal 14 hours a day.
All conditions within the facility are controlled and are meant to stimulate an increase in output.
“The idea is not to go against nature but to really come closer to nature and have food production,” director of smart farming Kashif Riaz said.
While producing strawberries, the method generates little to zero waste and leaves no carbon footprint, Daoust said.
Run completely on electricity, Daoust says this style of farming is more green and efficient.
As an example, the heat generated from the lights is reused to heat adjacent greenhouses.
“It’s a completely integrated approach,” Riaz said.
The energy and cost savings also translates to cheaper shelf prices.
“It’s very efficient. We’re producing very good strawberries at a decent price. The end goal is to sell them at the same cost as they are in the summer,” Daoust said.
Currently, Ferme D’Hiver berries sell for $5.99 and can only be found in some IGAs around the Montreal area.
The small facility in Brossard is just the beginning of a bigger project.
A new site 12 times larger is being built in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
This facility will house 55,000 plants and turn out “tons and tons of strawberries,” Daoust said.
With more factories on the way, the company hopes to replace 10 per cent of fruit and vegetable imports from the U.S.A. and other countries with homegrown produce within the next five years.
“We are importing 90 per cent of our produce during the winter. Just replacing 10 or 20 per cent would mean billions of dollars,” Daoust said.
The Vaudreuil facility as well as its connecting greenhouses are scheduled to be complete by the spring of 2021.
Daoust expects them to generate returns in time for next winter.