Eastern Charlotte Waterways began a project in 2021 to turn a former grocery store into an indoor farm with 40 vertical towers for controlled-environment agriculture.Submitted/Eastern Charlotte Waterways

An indoor farm that is part of Eastern Charlotte Waterways’ initiative to build sustainable systems for rural communities got a shot in the arm when it comes to funding.

The Village Indoor Farm & Living Lab project has received $472,560 in new federal funding through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program, which will enable upgrades to HVAC and electrical systems and as well as windows, according to a press release Aug. 10. The indoor farm, in the site of a former grocery store in Blacks Harbour, is set to have its grand opening in October and could grow up to 8,000 pounds of food.

“The most recent funding allows us to complete the renovations,” said Briana Cowie, executive director of Eastern Charlotte Waterways. “When we purchased it, it was a storage unit, and it closed as a grocery store in 2018, so it’s a complete retrofit.”

The non-profit had supplied 17 per cent of capital costs, or $175,000, with the municipality of Eastern Charlotte contributing $90,000. The rest came from the green buildings fund, which is meant to support upgrades to community buildings and new builds.

“I encourage all kinds of organizations to apply for this kind of thing, because it allows us to create climate-resilient buildings, and also allows us as non-profits to lower our operational costs moving forward, and that’s huge,” Cowie said. The nonprofit had also previously got a grant to fund electrical and plumbing upgrades.

The Village Indoor Farm & Living Lab project is part of the group’s Project: Village initiative, which also includes an affordable housing project that became its own non-profit and a car share project that launched last summer.

“Rural communities often are overlooked in the larger scope of day-to-day implementation work, and we wanted to be implementers on the ground doing a lot of the good work that was always identified as a need within the region,” Cowie said.

In 2021, the non-profit took over the space and had engineers and local stakeholders redesign the space, Cowie said. It will have 50 growing towers standing 10 to 11 feet fall, with a total of 2,200 growing ports. The farm will be used for cilantro, basil, arugula and lettuce and can be sold to local grocers or directly to consumers through farmers’ markets or at the indoor farm itself.

“The building itself has been designed, because it was an old grocery store, as a full-spectrum food system, so there is already a cooler space and a processing room, and a big bay door for distribution,” Cowie said.

She said the farm is working with small grocers including Spice Box and Honeybeans in Saint Andrews and The Kitchen in Blacks Harbour, and hopes to also provide foods to food banks.

Cowie said the non-profit has done community engagement events in the spring and did a survey on controlled-environment agriculture from a consumer perspective.

“An element of this as well is to understand how to do more knowledge-building around what CEA is and … ideally build something that allows New Brunswick to be a bit more food self-sufficient.”

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 07, 2023 at 06:48

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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