• Water conservation
  • Pest control
  • Is it organic?
  • Why on a roof?
  • Saving energy
  • Composting

Water conservation

Since we recirculate 100% of irrigation water, our greenhouses don't load the municipal drainage system and our plant nutrients don't end up in lakes and rivers.

Good water is increasingly rare. We don’t want to do anything to make it rarer. That's why our farm captures rain water and recirculates irrigation water. We do this to avoid placing additional demand on the city water supply.

We use hydroponic cultivation methods, which allow us to grow using between 50% and 90% less water than a comparable farm not practicing recirculation. Since we recirculate 100% of irrigation water, our greenhouses don't load the municipal drainage system and our plant nutrients don't end up in lakes and rivers.

Our first greenhouse in Montreal also creates a large buffer system around the greenhouse. This slows the rate at which uncollected rainwater flows into city sewers.

Pest control

At Lufa Farms, we use biological controls to take care of harmful pests. This keeps our produce free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

Bugs: if you grow, they will come. All farmers, regardless of where they grow, have to cope with pests like insects and mites. But using pesticides–which have been linked to serious environmental and health problems–is not the answer. At Lufa Farms, we use biological controls to take care of harmful pests. This keeps our produce free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

Biological pest control is a method of pest management that relies on the natural behaviors of living organisms. Growers worldwide have been using biological pest control for decades, most notably in Holland (where our friends at Koppert are based). Through the use of biological controls, and by maintaing a very clean farm space, we're able to produce food that is both safe and nutritious. We release beneficial insects into the greenhouse to combat crop-harming pests. Ladybugs, for instance, are introduced into the greenhouse to help control aphids that damage plants by feeding on their sap. We use a wide range of insects to combat pests, and we've even developed biocontrol software so that we can ensure healthy, great-tasting produce for our customers.

Learn more about biological pest control.

Is it organic?

From the outset, our mission has been to grow food where people live and grow it more sustainably.

Short answer: no. We practice sustainable hydroponic agriculture by using no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides; capturing rainwater and recirculating 100% of irrigation water; using half the energy to heat as a ground-level greenhouse; composting green waste; choosing cultivars for their taste and nutritional value instead of durability; and delivering our produce on the same day it's harvested to eliminate waste.

From the outset, our mission has been to grow food where people live and grow it more sustainably. One of the major challenges when we started was to decide whether we wanted to use soil-based methods (which are eligible for organic certification in Canada) or greenhouse hydroponics (which currently are not).

In the end we decided to focus on hydroponic growing, even though these methods are not eligible for organic certification, to minimize our environmental impact. Doing so has allowed us to implement systems that recirculate 100% of irrigation water in our greenhouse. Some of the nutrients (e.g. iron, potassium, etc.) we use are mined. One reason that hydroponics has yet to be certified organic in Canada is because the mined nutrient salts are nonrenewable, but our ability to recirculate cuts down on an estimated 90% of nutrient usage versus standard hydroponic agriculture. By using drip irrigation and other hydroponic methods, we've created a completely closed irrigation loop that grows highly nutritious and incredibly tasty vegetables year-round while keeping water and nutrient use to a minimum.

Early on, we made the decision that we would not use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides in our cultivation. Instead we adhere to strictly sustainable cultivation methods, using only biocontrols (like ladybugs) and biological products (like algae) for pest and disease management.

Learn more about organics and hydroponics in Canada.

Why on a roof?

Farming on rooftops is way to take back arable land lost to development.

Good farm land is disappearing fast. It’s either being lost to parking lots and commercial development or it's being slowly poisoned by overuse of synthetic pesticides or herbicides. To make matters worse, good forests are being lost in an effort to make more farm land. That’s a lose-lose proposition.

We have more mouths to feed and less land to do it with. The world population continues to grow expontentially even as good farmland is rapidly disappearing. It simulatenously gives urban residents access to local produce that they would otherwise have imported from dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of miles away. Our prototype 31,000 square foot farm feeds approximately 2000 people and provides them with an excellent selection of fresh and nutritious produce. Our future greenhouses will feed more. The Lufa Farms slogan is "Our vision is a city of rooftop farms." We've set out to prove that that vision both possible and economically viable.

Saving energy

Saving energy and reducing fossil fuel consumption are fundamental parts of responsible agriculture. In fact, we decided to build urban rooftop greenhouses in large part because of the massive energy savings associated with growing on city rooftops. 

Though we do use natural gas to heat on cold nights in the winter, our rooftop greenhouses use considerably less than similar ground-level greenhouses. We offset all of our natural gas consumption by never refrigerating our produce and by growing near our urban customers rather than shipping our produce to cities hundred of miles away.

Here's a more complex answer in four parts:

First, the heating demands of greenhouses occur almost exclusively during the night. Nighttime temperatures in cities tend to be much higher than in the country due to the thermal mass of city buildings and roads and due to the heating of city homes and offices.

Second, we employ energy curtains. These semi-transparent curtains, which are automatically deployed on cold evenings, help insulate the greenhouse and reduce heat loss at night. This results in a significant energy-use reduction.

Third, our customers are urban residents who live and work close to our greenhouses. Since we deliver to drop-points around the city, harvest our produce on the same day it's delivered, and minimize packaging, we drastically reduce the energy that is traditionally used to package, ship, refrigerate, and store the produce that you'll find in an average supermarket.

Fourth, the combined transpiration of the plants in the greenhouse–collectively an enormous evaporative surface–cools the air and helps to reduce the heat island effect created by the typical black tar roof. This lowers the energy needed to cool the building underneath our greenhouses during hot summer days.

This is just the beginning. Future Lufa Farms greenhouses will be much bigger than our 31,000 sqft prototype in Montreal, which will magnify the benefits outlined above. We also plan to implement biomass heating systems, which will generate heat from recycled plant and wood fiber. And our team is continually developing new and innovative ways to save energy in future greenhouses.

Composting

We compost everything from leaves and rotten vegetables to office paper and kitchen waste, preventing it from ending up in a landfill.

In Canada, landfills are the largest producers of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with 21 times the warming factor of CO2. Organic waste that ends up in landfills not only contributes to methane production, it also mixes with harsh chemicals, pesticides, prescription drugs and other harmful products in our landfills to produce toxic leachates that contaminate groundwater. At Lufa, we compost our organic waste to produce a wonderfully nutritious, 100% local, 100% vegan compost that revitalizes Montreal gardens and green spaces.

Unlike a conventional farm where organic waste can be piled up for windrow composting on spare land or used as mulch, Lufa Farms has to work under the challenge of the limited space in urban rooftop farming. Since Montreal, like many cities, does not yet have a city-wide organics pickup program, our options for responsibly managing our waste are few. To meet this challenge, we have decided to compost our organic waste on-site using an in-vessel rotating drum located in the basement of our building. Our high quality finished compost is then used for our potted herbs, donated to community gardens throughout Montreal, and is now available for sale to our customers in a 100% compostable bag.