Chris Hildreth shows off his produce at the Dockside’s waterfront precinct. This year, Hildreth, the founder of Top Soil, a company that turns urban spaces into productive food growing areas, transformed 15,000 square feet of space at Dockside along the Galloping Goose. Dawn Gibson/Victoria News

Oak Bay resident’s small-scale commercial garden in full bloom

Top Soil turns urban spaces into productive food growing

A project which aims to deliver produce that is grown locally, packaged without single-use plastic and zero CO2 emissions is in full bloom.

Chris Hildreth, founder of Top Soil, a company that turns urban spaces into productive food growing areas, has transformed 15,000 square feet of space at Dockside’s Waterfront Precinct alongside the Galloping Goose into a small-scale commercial grow space.

“On a big scale, we’re trying to produce a lot of food but do it more sustainably … It took a long time to get to this point and I’m really happy to be working with them (Dockside),” Hildreth said. “We’re definitely growing in the right direction.”

It’s a project the UVic grad and Oak Bay resident started in 2015 on the rooftop of 1001 Blanshard St. Starting with a roughly 400-square-foot garden, Hildreth planted produce such as kale, arugula, mixed lettuce and herbs, with no chemical input and no one-time use plastic packaging.

In its first year, Hildreth harvested and delivered produce using zero CO2 emissions to Fiamo Italian Kitchen to use in meals.

The project has sprouted quickly since then, moving to the Dockside location last year and harvested more than 7,000 pounds of 32 different crops. This year, Hildreth is setting his sights higher, hoping to produce 10,000 pounds of arugula, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, basil, cucumber and zucchini, among other things.

This week, Hildreth will start delivering produce by foot and bike to Canoe Brew Pub Club, Fiamo, Lure Restaurant and Bar, and Cafe Fantastico once a week.

“The goal has always been and it still is the driving force behind this business is can you create a tangible alternative to the industrial food system?” Hildreth said. “From start to finish, not just producing it better, but can you package it better, can you deliver it better, can you operate in full transparency? But do that at a quantity that can start turning some heads.”

Hildreth also plans on giving residents a chance to purchase some of the produce he grows, by setting up a storefront at the Dockside location on Saturdays in the summer. In the future he hopes to produce 100,000 pounds of food for the city per year.