A new commercial-scale facility from GoodLeaf Farms may help prove the potential of vertical farming.

Jeff McKinnon, senior vice president of network development at GoodLeaf, joined Shaun Haney on RealAg Radio, to chat about the announcement, how GoodLeaf fits in with the food supply chain, and what the new facility means for the fresh greens vertical farming company.

GoodLeaf farms is the largest vertical farming operation in Canada, with a location at Guelph, Ont., that produces just shy of a million pounds per year, which in McKinnon’s words is “not going to be enough capacity.”

A million and a half pounds of annual output at their new Calgary, Alta., facility, and another site at Montreal, Que., should get GoodLeaf closer to their goals and in their work with supermarkets and other food service suppliers.

As a vertical farming company, GoodLeaf isn’t looking to displace or compete with Canadian vegetable farmers; they’re looking to displace imports, says McKinnon.

“We’ve been fortunate in Canada that the supermarket sector in particular is fairly concentrated, so we’ve targeted Loblaw’s, an early adopter, and we work with other supermarkets and some of the larger food service suppliers,” says McKinnon.

While building in Ontario, Canada’s largest market, GoodLeaf got calls from customers to take the model national, which McKinnon says was the goal anyway.

GoodLeaf produces baby greens — the greens you would see as pre-packaged salads — and microgreens like pea shoots, spicy mix, micro-broccoli, or what would normally be a garnish.

The things that keep him up at night are atypical to regular farmers — energy costs or the fact that there’s no playbook and that they’re pioneering in a specific niche, for example.

Check out the full conversation below for more details on the operational challenges of vertical farming:

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