Kelowna vertical farm reaches new heights with expansion to retail, organic certification

Vertical farm growing

After only four years in business, a Kelowna vertical farming business is hitting new heights.

Micro Greens recently took over fellow local company Avenue M Microgreens, allowing owners Ralph and Tina Gerlitsch to retire. It has just received organic certification, and Micro Greens products will be hitting store shelves in the Central Okanagan next week.

“Nature’s Fare Market in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Vernon. Choices Market in Kelowna, Peter’s Independent Grocer on Gordon, IGA in Glenmore and Lakeview Market in Lower Mission. And then we have just under 50 restaurants in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country,” says co-owners Colton MacRae.

MacRae and business partners Justin Leeuwangh and Carly Kulifaj-Leeuwangh have expanded their facility at 2525 Acland Road three times since opening. They are eyeing even more growth in the next few years.

“We do have plans. There is a cannabis grow facility, that has been selling off some of its units because they’re not as busy anymore, right across the street from us called THC Biomeds. So we do have plans if we continue to grow at the rate we are to move over to a facility over there that is basically already ready.”

While other farmers in the Okanagan have struggled in recent years with drought and extreme winter cold snaps, Micro Greens can easily control its indoor growing conditions.

“We don’t have to deal with weather,” says MacRae. “We deal with other things in the growing environment, of course.

“Like if an air conditioner breaks down on you or you have a dehumidifier that breaks down on you, or something like that, and it spikes the humidity in the room. You could potentially lose your crops, but we have everything very automated in our farm there’s a little bit of margin for error.”

That automation doesn’t mean they don’t need human help as the business grows. Micro Greens is currently trying to hire staff to assist with harvesting and packaging as they expand to more retail outlets.

His advice to anyone thinking of launching a vertical gardening farm? Don’t give up.

“We started a business during COVID. It was the hardest time to start a business, the hardest time for restaurant clients to be interested in taking on something more expensive to add to their plates. I kept on pushing through,” says MacRae.

“Me and my business partners went through a lot of hoops to get to where we are now, but the hard work definitely pays off.”

He notes their facility can now grow just over 500 trays of micro greens and edible flowers every week.

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