Vertical Roots Canada

This interview details Vertical Roots Canada, an indoor farming company based in Canada. The interview is with Mike Newhook, Founder, CEO, and Master Grower at Vertical Roots Canada.

Source: Vertical Roots

What is the origin story of Vertical Roots Canada?

Vertical Roots was originally started with the name “Highland Aquaponics”. Located in the Philippines we began our journey of growing year-round “clean” food. Originally, we started with Aquaponics and our farms were producing over 10,000 heads per month in a greenhouse environment. Vertical Roots Canada was established in 2019, in Tofield Alberta Canada. We started producing hydroponically in 2020 with our first small prototype to test the market for available equipment etc. as well as consumer interest.

Vertical Roots Canada moved to Edmonton in 2021 and quadrupled our production with our new custom-built vertical farm design.

Our goal is simple “Small to Medium” farms (2500-5000 sqft) across Canada”. We aren’t out to compete with the huge producers. We are after the smaller towns and rural zones in Canada. I feel as though they often get left behind and the cost of good food is too high. We can help with this.

Source: Vertical Roots

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Vertical Roots Canada in the future?

The biggest challenge for us would be finding enough time to keep up with the applications for licensed farms. We are already booked up for 2023 and starting to plan 2024. Our model of 100% supported farms across Canada is growing rapidly. We are planning on going across Canada in early 2024 with applications in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northern Canada.

Most would say energy costs. I don’t agree. Although I would prefer lower distribution costs, our farms run very efficiently. We design each room to our design. We can cool our farm 8-9 months of the year on 400-600W of electricity. This is compared to 7,000-10,000W in most other farms. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort to produce a solution.

Source: Vertical Roots

What is unique about Vertical Roots Canada compared to competitors?

Our farm license model is unique because we can offer a Vertical Farm business to those who have zero experience in Hydroponics but also zero experience growing. We off 24/7 support, training videos and SOP’s which rival none on the market. How do we do this? We are growers. We don’t just have a business model; we are hands on. We have faced every struggle in the Vertical growing space and our pain is gain for future farmers. Offering the support that all growers need is vital to the success of any farm. Most of us growers are on our own and consultants either don’t have hands on experience and they don’t know your “room”. Every room is different unless you follow a proven model.

We have custom spectrum LED lights which have been tested and proven. We have a custom airflow system that we built based on our plants and farm needs. We have perfected the “garden style” lettuce, grown year-round. We don’t sell small heads of lettuce. We believe that a head of lettuce should be as good as your garden.

The thing I am most passionate about is not being an “automated” farm. We don’t need more robots; we need more jobs. Local, community driven companies are the key to Canada staying strong. Most of the new farms out there are over capitalized and they eliminate jobs. I never really understood the logic behind this.

Lastly, we want to impact the Nation of Canada, one town at a time. Creating a local business which can serve a community is our goal. This might be the slower growth plan, but it’s the “long play” we are after. Canada deserves fresh food, especially in rural towns and areas.

Source: Vertical Roots

How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc.?

Our farms generate a minimum 50% profit margin with a less than 2-year ROI. Our custom HVAC designs allow us to run efficiently and cost effectively year-round.

Because we have sold farms our revenues have increased quickly, but our farm here in Edmonton has quadrupled its profit in the last 14 months. We sell out most weeks and we are looking forward to providing more product locally when our new NW Edmonton farm starts growing in early May 2023.

Source: Vertical Roots

What have you learned that you wish you knew when you joined or started the company?

I love this question. Success comes from pain. Very rarely do we learn without pain or struggle. It’s been a ride that is for sure. The secret though, is that I can now pass on the lessons learnt to new farmers. There isn’t much we haven’t had to learn on our own, its time for others to benefit from those struggles.

I guess if I could name one, it would be this: “Comparison is the future killer”. What I mean is, I spent a lot of time trying to copy and compare my design to others out there. After all the dust has settled in the years to come, I am confident that Vertical Roots Canada will remain strong and will be the industry leader for local food production in rural areas of Canada.

How can people connect with you or learn more about Vertical Roots Canada?

You can find us on Facebook, Instagram and of course our website www.verticalroots.ca

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