In good farm country like Dalkeith, where soil is abundant, it seems unusual to introduce vertical farming. But Eric Amyot, CEO of Modular Farms Inc., believes he’s found the perfect location to build the modular farm that are being shipped worldwide. These metal boxes — some say they look like ATCO storage containers — are now being produced at the old MacLennan sawmill in Dalkeith. The sawmill was purchased 10 years ago by Carter Shows owners Bruce Brock and Geordie Todd.
“I wasn’t planning on selling the place, but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” says Brock, speaking of the farm company that’s interested in purchasing the nearly 10-acre property. “Right now we have a lease-to-own in place, and because we’ve already started the show season, rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl and Merry-Go-Round will be on the road while others are being stored in the back. That makes the main building available for the farms manufacturing.” He explains that some of their 20 rides can be stored outside, making room for the seven farm employees to work on farm container production in the main storage facility.
Vertical farming occurs in sealed containers and is done hydroponically, without soil. Seeds are started in a nutrient-rich culture and are then transferred to an area where the plants grow vertically on walls of the unit. There are no windows and temperature and humidity are controlled. The company has partnered with a world-leader in LED light. The building is completely self-contained and sterilization means there’s no need for pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, making the ‘farm’ ideal for areas where traditional crop-growing is almost unthinkable.
The 10’4’’ by 10’4’’ by 40’ containers are used to grow mostly green leafy vegetables and herbs, such as kale and basil. The dimensions were established according to road and rail demands for shipping, and each unit costs an average of $155,000. According to CEO Amyot, the measurements meet highway and rail standards in order to be shipped to communities around the world and remote Northern Canadian areas with little problem. He explains that one of his first concerns when setting up the business, that he started in Cornwall a few years ago, was that container measurements met traffic standards.
Devin Lamb, of Alexandria, has been operations manager at the modular farm business for nine months. Lamb believes the old sawmill is a great location not only for the construction of the farms, but also for research and development. “Our goal is to increase ‘R and D’ here in Dalkeith and continue to build. This farm is going to Alaska,” he says, pointing to the container currently in construction at the Dalkeith facility. “Modular farms are the gateway to indoor agro-technology.”