The former site of the Elk Falls pulp mill will soon become an inland farm producing vegetables locally, thanks to an agreement between the site and CubicFarm Systems Corp.
On June 28, CubicFarm entered into an agreement with NTE Discovery Park Ltd. for the purchase and operation of 26 modules of the CubicFarm system for $4.4 million as well as the manufacture of these 26 modules and the future manufacture of major components for contracts in North America.
NTE Discovery Park will construct the cold-formed steel frame for the CubicFarm system modules at Discovery Park, the former site of the Elk Falls pulp mill north of Campbell River. The CubicFarm System Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology enables commercial-scale quantities of fresh produce to be grown in modular, food-grade steel systems. The company’s proprietary Crop Motion technology moves plants throughout the system using less water, land, energy and labor, according to a press release from Cubic Farms.
NTE Discovery Park will repurpose existing facilities and assess sustainable initiatives to “trigger a circular economy, localize food production, and reinvigorate the local workforce with jobs in the community.”
“We are excited to leverage the CubicFarm system and diversify our operations by manufacturing major hardware components, installing CubicFarm’s impressive indoor farming technologies, and localizing fresh produce for communities across British Columbia,” said said John Tang, general manager of NTE Discovery Park. “Building and operating vertical farms in Western Canada serves the dual purpose of providing communities with greater access to delicious, fresh food year-round without importing 90% of it over long distances.
Tang said the system reduces the carbon footprint of food delivered to consumers and manufacturing the modules will create new jobs. He also highlighted the local power source of BC Hydro’s John Hart Generating Station located four kilometers from the site.
The new agreement with NTE Discovery Park will ease supply chain constraints and enable increased efficiency and new “Farmer Partner” facilities for larger commercial-scale engagements, CubicFarm said.
“We are honored to partner with NTE Discovery Park and parent company New Times Energy Limited to manufacture CubicFarm Systems,” said Dave Dinesen, CubicFarms President and CEO. “The visionary leaders of this successful international company agree on the importance of all the ways we can localize food production and improve food security in Canada. This Canadian-made equipment manufacturing agreement complements the company’s existing manufacturing facilities in China, enabling CubicFarm to meet growing demand for our industry-leading CEA technology and platform.
Andrea Magee, director of communications at CubicFarm, said the agreement to buy, build and operate the modules is the first step, but it will be “a bit of a journey before these are operational. and actually provide fresh, nutritious food to local people, but that’s the intention.
“I think people are going to really appreciate having something fresh and local that has grown in their community,” Magee said.
CubicFarm currently has several operations in British Columbia and Alberta, including one in Indiana, USA, and another underway in Australia.