Is Calgary far behind?

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Alterrus is constructing a rooftop vegetable greenhouse on the top of a downtown-parking garage in Vancouver. So far, Calgary has yet to follow in the coastal city’s footprints – even though it could be a big environmental win for the city.

According to Alterrus’ website, once complete, the VertiCrop is expected to yield an average of 150,000 pounds of fresh vegetables that will supply local grocery stores and restaurants year-round.

Donovan Woollard, a strategic advisor for Alterrus said that the garden has had a positive response from the locals.

“We’ve really positioned ourselves (so) that we capture all the best environmental and social aspects of organic, with all of the social and economic development and environmental benefits of local as well,” Woollard said.Edited DSC_79941-1Rooftops in Vancouver are a new place to grow vegetables to supply grocery stores and restaurants with fresh vegetables year-round.

Photo by Caitlin Clow

Meanwhile, Calgary Horticultural Society’s Kath Smyth said that in Calgary, “there is a big, big, big resistance to putting that kind of a load on roofs because of the odd snowfall we get.”

But Smyth, the society’s horticulturalist, also calls the resistance “bizarre,” adding that “in Europe, people put greenhouses on roofs all the time.”

“We have more sunshine in Alberta than any province in the country during the winter months, so why could we not grow food year round?” Smyth said.

“There is absolutely no reason why we couldn’t put something on a roof and grow things,” Smyth said.

Woollard said that the company chose Vancouver as the pioneer city for the rooftop greenhouses because the city council was making public statements about wanting to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Woollard acknowledged that they did face challenges – specifically the risks associated with constructing the greenhouse in an earthquake zone.

Through the use of hydroponics and greenhouses, Calgary could produce most of the herbs and leafy greens on a local level, cutting cost and minimizing the carbon footprint substantially, something that all of the experts expressed as benefits.

Cities such as Vancouver and Calgary import their leafy greens from places like California and Mexico. Woollard said, “The transportation footprint alone is two times the total energy and carbon associated with our entire production.”

When the City of Calgary was contacted a spokesperson said there are no specific plans to increase local food production via rooftop greenhouses.

Kerry Joyes, a communications strategist with the City of Calgary, said, “Calgary isn’t doing anything like that now, in the future…who knows.”

But Smyth said, “I think we need to use the great outdoors a little more then we are, we pride ourselves on being an outdoor city.” 

Correction: Donovan Woollard’s last name was mispelled as Wollard. The article originally stated that the VertiCrop was expected to yield an average of 195,000 pounds of fresh vegetation, however, we were notified that they are expecting a yield of an average of 150,000 pounds of fresh vegetation. We apologize for these errors.  

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