The former Elk Falls pulp mill site will soon become an indoor agricultural operation producing vegetables locally, thanks to an agreement between the site and Vancouver-based CubicFarm Systems Corp.
On June 28 CubicFarm entered into an agreement with NTE Discovery Park Ltd. for the purchase and operation of 26 CubicFarm System modules for $4.4 million as well as the manufacturing of those 26 modules and the future manufacturing of major components for contracts within North America.
NTE Discovery Park will build the cold-formed steel framing for the CubicFarm System modules at Discovery Park, the former Elk Falls pulp mill site north of Campbell River. The CubicFarm System controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology grows commercial scale amounts of fresh produce in modular, food-grade steel systems. The company’s proprietary Crop Motion Technology moves plants throughout the system using less water, land, energy and labour, according to a Cubic Farms press release.
NTE Discovery Park will repurpose existing facilities and evaluate sustainable initiatives to “ignite a circular economy, localize food production and reinvigorate local labour with jobs in the community.”
“We’re excited about operating the CubicFarm System and diversifying our operations by manufacturing major hardware components, installing CubicFarm’s impressive indoor farming technologies, and localizing fresh produce for communities in B.C.,” said John Tang, Chief executive Officer, NTE Discovery Park. “Building and operating vertical farms in Western Canada has a dual purpose of providing communities with better access to delicious fresh food year-round without importing 90 per cent of it over long distances.”
Tang said the system reduces the carbon footprint of food delivered to consumers and manufacturing the modules will provide new jobs. He also pointed out the local source of power from BC Hydro’s John Hart powerhouse located four kilometres from the site.
The new agreement with NTE Discovery Park will mitigate supply chain constraints and allow increased efficiencies and new “Farmer Partner” installations for larger commercial scale commitments, CubicFarm says.
“We’re honoured to partner with NTE Discovery Park and parent company New Times Energy Limited in manufacturing CubicFarm Systems,” said Dave Dinesen, Chief executive Officer, CubicFarms. “The visionary leaders of this successful, international company are aligned on the importance of all the ways we can localize food production and improve food security in Canada. This manufacturing agreement for hardware made in Canada is in addition to the company’s existing manufacturing facilities in China, allowing CubicFarm to meeting increasing demand for our technology and leading CEA platform.”
Andrea Magee, CubicFarm director of communications, said the agreement to buy, build and operate the modules is the first step but it will be “a little ways off before we get those up and running actually providing fresh, nutritious food for the local population but that’s the intent.”
“I think people are really going to appreciate having something fresh and local that’s grown in their community,” Magee said.
CubicFarm currently has several operations in B.C. and Alberta with one coming in Indiana, USA and another in progress in Australia.