Seeding Our Food Future grant improves sustainability for Elora-based food business
With a love of growing food and a natural inclination to try new things, Donna Pardy launched her business, Uprooted Farm, to give herself and her community more local options when purchasing leafy greens, herbs and microgreens. Using a vertical hydroponic system, Uprooted Farm grows its products indoors all year long, without chemicals and using only recycled water and natural nutrients.
As her operation grew to require three tank reservoirs, each needing different nutrient formulas, manual feeding became a time-consuming challenge for Donna. Automating the process would not only save a large portion of time but reduce the number of inputs and provide a more consistent and nutritious product. Her goal was to produce more products with less waste and have her plants spend more time in their “happy zone,” as Donna refers to it.
In spring 2020, she learned about Seeding Our Food Future, a grant program supporting Guelph-Wellington food system businesses, not-for-profits and social enterprises. The initiative is funded by Our Food Future and led by Innovation Guelph’s Circular Food Economy iHub. Donna immediately knew this funding could help, and after some trial and error, she successfully automated the watering and feeding process for her produce. So far, two of the three tanks at Uprooted Farm are fully automated. Each tank has three peristaltic pumps on timers that are connected to an app on Donna’s phone. Anywhere, anytime, she can access her plant’s data and feed them as necessary.
A surprise outcome was a significant reduction in water and nutrient use. Each tank would typically take a few 18-litre buckets of water every week, Donna says, and now they only require one bucket every two weeks. The plants only take what they need, and now that they can be fed automatically, they do not require as much water.
In line with the Our Food Future goals, Uprooted has created a system that provides healthy, nutrient dense, fresh local produce year-round. One of Donna’s main goals is to continue to contribute to the local community and supply healthy options. By automating the grow towers, she has successfully increased plant growth and turnover time. These results lead to more nutritious and affordable produce that has a longer shelf life.
Everything Uprooted Farm does is to support the community, build connections, combat climate change, and teach others that their choices matter, says Donna.