Conveyor belt system maximizes natural light in rooftop greenhouse

November 22, 2012
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Alterrus Systems' Donovan Woollard shows off the conveyor belt system in Vancouver's newest rooftop greenhouse. (Courtesy of The Province.)
Alterrus Systems' Donovan Woollard shows off the conveyor belt system in Vancouver's newest rooftop greenhouse. (Courtesy of The Province.)
A rooftop greenhouse in downtown Vancouver is testing a $2-million conveyor belt system designed to maximize the use of natural light in the production of leafy green vegetables and herbs.

Alterrus Systems Inc. designed the 5,700 square foot facility, which is located on the 10th floor of a city-owned parking structure. It features 4,000 square feet of growing space, where produce is raised in hydroponic trays stacked 12 high. The trays circulate through the facility on conveyor belts. One belt moves racks of trays back and forth, while another belt rotates racks up and down. This rotation maximizes the greenhouse’s use of natural light and reduces its need for artificial lighting.

 

“The VertiCrop technology represents a radical shift in sustainable food production,” said Christopher Ng, Alterrus’s CEO, when the project was first announced in August. “Current food production methods are ineffective in dealing with the challenges of growing populations and decreasing amounts of farmland. VertiCrop’s high-density urban farming is an effective way to grow nutritious food using fewer land and water resources than traditional field farming methods.”

 

The remainder of the rooftop facility will be used for picking and packaging the estimated 70,000 kg of greens and herbs that will be grown there each year. The produce will be sold in local grocery stores and at some higher-end restaurants in the neighbourhood under the Local Garden brand.

 

“There aren’t many viable ways of producing leafy greens in northern North American climates,” Alterrus’ Donovan Woollard told The Province. “We’re looking to put more systems in Vancouver – and other cities.”

 

To watch a video about the new greenhouse, click here.

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