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Vancouver Green Grocer Uses Hydroponic Systems To Grow Fresh Foods

Imagine shopping for produce in an aisle that looks something like this. Imagine shopping for produce in an aisle that looks something like this.


For those of us looking to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health all at once, citizens of Vancouver, B.C. have a new option in the form of a small grocery store and juice bar, which specializes in offering literally the freshest herbs, micro-greens and sprouts available.

By utilizing a modified hydroponics system, called the Urban Cultivator, which he developed for home use, Living Produce Aisle co-owner and founder Tarren Wolfe has created a green-grocer that is literally about as green as you can get.

The store, whose doors opened in October, operates within the basement of a pizzeria owned by proprietor Bill McCraig, who owns Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Vicino Pastaria. McCraig agreed to lend out his basement to Wolfe’s business in exchange for basil and arugula, for which McCraig was spending at least two thousand dollars a month. That’s what we call a smart exchange on behalf of both parties.

The growing popularity of the local food movement will likely lead to the expansion of grocers like this.

Living Produce Aisle grows a variety of products from wheatgrass (sold raw or as shots in the juice bar, which also creates fresh smoothies) to a variety of herbs, pea shoots, and a variety of salad greens.

The business can grow between 1000 and 2000 pounds of fresh greens each month in their 20 hydroponic cultivators, according to Wolfe. He says that they can harvest about four crops per month of most sprouts and micro-greens.

Confident with his business model, Wolfe expects that his greengrocer and juice bar will make around $50 thousand per year, and sees it as an exciting idea for the future.

“Living Produce Aisle is a proof-of-concept operation for what I think can be a good franchise business or an add-on for whole foods or grocery stores,” explained Wolfe.

The growing popularity of the local food movement will likely lead to the expansion of grocers like this. This movement has been growing in cities worldwide, including a company called Gotham Greens, located in Brooklyn, New York, which was the first commercial rooftop hydroponic garden, employing several dozen people and providing fresh, local produce to grocery stores like Whole Foods, as well as multiple well-known, respected restaurants, who just must have fresh produce.

Some restaurants are even choosing to build hydroponic and soil gardens atop their roofs, so that all a chef must do is simply walk upstairs to gather the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that they need, then head back down to their kitchens – no shopping (or shipping) required.

Hydroponics has made a huge difference in agriculture as we know it, allowing us to grow plants in places once believed to be completely barren, from arid deserts to Antarctica, in urban cities and even in space.

Perhaps we are on to something here with this hydroponics stuff.

UPDATE: Living Produce Aisle has had to relocate. The new Vancouver location will be open soon, as will an additional location in Toronto.

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A look at the living produce aisle.
Last modified on Monday, 13 May 2013 18:42

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