A group of businesspeople have gone out on their own to start a business involving growing with hydroponics and is now hoping for hope to expand.
Blaine Hussey, one of the company directors, said the operation is a private venture to date. The idea was derived out of necessity, as he and his partners are aware that there is a need for it when you look at living on an island that has issues like food sustainability and security.
“The time for talking about growing our own food is over. It’s now time to move on it,” he said.
The company, Growing for Life, plans to operate year-round to provide fresh vegetables to market, starting with tomatoes being grown now at Black Duck Siding facility which is located near Stephenville Crossing.
Growing for Life has already proven that tomatoes can be grown hydroponically in Newfoundland and Labrador the same way as they are in other provinces.
Louis MacDonald, another director with Growing for Life, said they want to expand to grow other vegetables such as peppers, Boston and Bibb lettuce and cucumbers, but on a small scale due to their not being as strong a market for the latter in this province.
The operation has carried out steps to get its certification and once the audit is done they will be getting some of their product into several local grocery stores.
The first planting took place in June with ripe tomatoes now ready for picking from the lower vines. Green tomatoes are currently still growing in the central area and the upper levels see the tomato plants flowering. This will provide a constant yield at various times throughout the year.
The vines last about a year, so while this first crop is growing, another crop is being planted in a second greenhouse to provide a constant supply.
A wood furnace is being used to heat the operation utilizing a glycol system. The heating fuel will be changed from wood to peat pellets in the future.
Growing for Life is free of pesticides.
Plans are also in place for Spring 2018 for a farmers market and a restaurant being developed on site under the watchful guidance of Red Seal chef Jay Stuckless.
Adding other farmers to the fray will complement the existing marketplace.
“We (Growing for Life) would eventually like to be a major supplier for Newfoundland and Labrador through our hydroponically grown produce and eventually ground crops,” MacDonald said.
He said several nearby local municipalities are supportive and he is now hoping the provincial and federal governments will assist.
In addition to Hussey and MacDonald, the other directors are Dave Hobbs and Scott Madore.