Local startup is expanding the footprint of hydroponics and increasing access to affordable, nutritious foods

 

Colin McVicker and Dan Atkinson had known each other for many years prior to working together.  They naturally grew closer when Colin married his wife, who had been a family friend of Dan’s. Working in healthcare at the time, Colin was doing outreach in downtown Guelph, Waterloo, and Cambridge with individuals who often were unable to access fresh food regularly. One day, while Colin was expressing his frustrations surrounding food insecurity, Dan asked, “Well, what are we going to do about this?” Since then, Colin and Dan have been on a mission to spread the footprint of hydroponic growing with a vision to give every home access to fresh, nutritious produce. They created GR365N (pronounced Green 365) to support this mission, hoping to use their business to work with community partners to increase food accessibility.  

As a startup, Colin and Dan were for looking for opportunities to connect with others who shared a similar vision; that’s when they discovered the Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF) program. Through the funding and mentorship received, GR365N has been engaging with community agencies to increase accessibility of food. Believing that vertical farming is the future of growing as it allows individuals to produce a crop without the cost of land and machinery, GR365N designs, builds, and maintains custom-made hydroponic grow systems. They aim to work with community agencies to provide food security and food literacy through hydroponic training programs and partnerships. Building the growing systems to fit the needs of the user, GR365N offers personal systems for home food growers and commercial systems for restaurants or offices. In partnership with 10C Shared Space, they custom designed and implemented a system that would produce an assortment of greens and micro-greens throughout the year.  Participating in the SOFF program at Innovation Guelph, the R-Purpose MICRO course at Provision Coalition, and engaging with 10C Shared Space has opened Colin’s eyes to the sea of opportunities available to those with a shared interest in sustainable food. 

Circularity is second nature to GR365N. It is front and center in everything they do as they are constantly finding new uses for different types of waste in their value chain. Dan noted that growing up, everything in his house was always recycled, and nothing was ever wasted – it was normal. Colin expressed that many notions of waste in our culture need to be challenged. When there are disruptions in the food supply chain, it motivates us to think differently and look for opportunities to rethink what we consider as “waste.” With GR365N’s hydroponic systems, they aim to inspire people to invest in a more cost-effective future without the losses that come from greenhouse emissions, packaging, processing, and missed labour market prospects. From employment opportunities through hydroponic training to increasing access to affordable, nutritious food, GR365N is actively fulfilling Our Food Future goals.  

 

Photo courtesy of Colin McVicker at GR365N.