It all started with a batch of delicious, locally-grown Quebec strawberries.
Brossard-based Ferme d’hiver (“winter farm”) is getting $1.3 million in investment capital from Inventissement Quebec.
The startup combines artificial intelligence and agronomy to power optimal climatic conditions in fully controlled indoor gardening ecosystems. Ferme d’hiver says its vertical farms reduce dependency on importing fresh produce while reinventing agriculture by bringing vertical production to scale.
Bravo! Plus d'autonomie alimentaire pour le Québec! https://t.co/t942tPOOf9
— François Legault (@francoislegault) April 17, 2020
Quebec government makes a bet on Ferme d’hiver
For the Government of Quebec, this was a good fit in during the COVID crisis as society is rethinking food sustainability and availability efforts.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made the citizens of Quebec realize that it is essential to increase our agricultural autonomy and, above all, to support our local producers,” said Quebec’s Minister of the Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon. “This initiative is perfectly in line with our government’s desire to encourage innovative companies that develop solutions that meet Quebecers’ needs and have strong export potential.”
One of the company’s first projects was with a batch of Quebec strawberries, one of the hardest crops to control. Since Quebec imports most of its strawberries, quality lessens as pesticides and shipping affect taste. Ferme d’hiver’s test run went so well that the company will now produce a multitude of other fruits and vegetables.
What exactly do they do?
Engineer Yves Daoust founded Ferme d’hiver in 2018. Along with his engineering background, Daoust grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm in Vaudreuil, Quebec.
The company is building a network of “winter farms”. The Winter Farm consists of interconnected rooms that growers can integrate with their operating and production environments. A winter farm measures 8 metres in height, allowing for 3D production and higher crop density per square meter – up to 15 times that of a greenhouse, and 45 times that of field production.
Plant density per square metre per tier can be up to 5 times higher than with traditional greenhouse production.
Vertical farming is not a new concept. However, few approaches allow for easy integration with existing agricultural practices. The Winter Farm, then, is meant for farmers to quickly deploy large-scale production networks that can be incorporated into supply chains.
The company’s solution is “precision farming”. That’s where technology controls water, light, air, and temperature to take full advantage of agriculture.
The company’s current facility is mostly devoted to its research and development laboratory.