By Chad Ingram
The Growcer – an automated hydroponic growing system housed in a shipping container-like shell – will allow Abbey Gardens to produce veggies for the county on a year-round basis.
An event to mark the occasion was held at the Abbey Gardens property outside West Guilford on the morning of Oct. 19.
As Corey Ellis co-founder and CEO of The Growcer explained to the crowd the units were invented to allow residents of northern communities to grow healthy food for themselves and were first used north of the Arctic Circle. Being hydroponic means the units use no soil only water in the growing process and pesticides and herbicides are not used. A digital monitoring system keeps an eye on the plants deciding when they need water etc. and Abbey Gardens and Growcer staff can monitor and manage the system digitally.
“It’s designed to operate year-round” Ellis said. “We’re really excited to see what they [Abbey Gardens] do with it.”
Producing 450 vegetables per week Abbey Gardens will use its system mostly to grow leafy greens. As operations director Heather Reid explained half of that yield will be dedicated to a community-supported agriculture model where residents can sign up to receive fresh greens. That is slated to commence in December.
“We also did a lot of consultation with local restaurants” Reid said explaining the other half of the greens produced will be sold to local restaurateurs.
The unit was a large investment for Abbey Gardens at $230000 and it received financial support from the Haliburton County Development Corporation as well as the Laidlaw family and other private investors.
“HCDC is proud to be supportive of this project” said HCDC executive director Patti Tallman.
Abbey Gardens board member and founder John Patterson noted that the sustainable food hub which is constructed on a former gravel pit is approaching its 10th anniversary and said the addition of The Growcer was part of its ongoing evolution.
“There’s another 10 or 20 years of work to do in our future” Patterson said.