Armstrong cubic farmer can grow greens all day - every day

Grow in the snow

Tracey Prediger

During his years of selling farm equipment, Mark van Deursen has had many conversations with the men and women who grow our food.

“I talked to a lot of farmers, and the biggest thing was (that) food security is becoming a big issue.”

His family moved from Holland to start farming in Armstrong when he was 14, so he was no stranger to the industry – but he knew there needed to be a new approach.

“What could I grow year round?” he thought.

His research into greenhouses proved to be too expensive with the high costs of labour and heating. So his research took him down another road – cubic farming.

He uses a cubic farm system out of Langley, designed to produce food out of a sea can, anytime of year.

Inside van Deursen's sea cans are layered growing systems that grow hydroponically, under stimulant light.

It checks all the boxes. Low labour costs, year round production, and it fits his space.

“It’s the size of one football field that we are growing in one container,” he says.

Van Deursen’s GreenLion farms currently has 16 of the shipping containers, which produce herbs, lettuce and micro greens. The longest grow time is 36 days. The farm produces 15,000 heads of lettuce each week that can be on shelves anywhere in B.C. within hours.

“Everything still needs to be trucked by reefer, but it’s staying locally so it’s either going to the Lower Mainland or it’s staying here – but we’re talking about a five-hour trip compared to California where it’s like … could be days, you don’t know.

Van Deursen realizes his lettuce is smaller, weighing in between 80 and 100 grams, but he wants people to think about wastage if they reach for the biggest head of lettuce.

“Yes, you can buy 200 grams of lettuce in the store, but how much do you really throw away?”

He says imported lettuce can sometimes soil within days, while the hydroponically grown lettuce can stay fresh for weeks.

Although the greens are grown by GreenLion farms, they are currently being sold under the AllWays Local banner.

The lettuce is available at all B.C. Loblaws locations and is sold to restaurant suppliers Sysco and Gordon Foods, which supply many local eateries.

If your eating at Kelly O’Bryan’s, Phoenix Steakhouse or The Kal Sports Bar, you may have already tasted GreenLion's produce.

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