Very Local Greens. Very Close to Home.
“We have committed to only use nonGMO seeds, no pesticides or herbicides, we use high efficiency LED lights and use 90% less water then a traditional farm outputting the same product – Phil Hatcher”
With the future building sites at the Wharf vacant, Phil Hatcher and his family saw an opportunity to grow something truly inspiring. Very Local Greens is a self sustaining farm inside a 40 foot shipping container striving to grow and sell greens to local restaurants in HRM. We wanted to share the vision and ethos behind this amazing business, so we caught up with Phil and his family to learn more.
Tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up? What were you up to in your pre-farming life ?
My back ground is a bit of a mixed bag, I grew up in Porters Lake and bought a house in Dartmouth in early 2000’s and now have moved back to a house on Porters Lake. Two boys, one pretty wife, one dog. Prior to launching Very Local Greens I had been working in the film industry for the past 18 years. (Location Scout, Special Effect Technician, Driver).
Did this come to you in a dream? or was container farming something you thought you would always end up doing ?
I’m always looking for cool ideas and opportunities that could be done here in Nova Scotia. Container farming was not on my radar until I saw an initiative being done in Brooklyn NY where Kimbal Musk invested in 10 freight farm units to promote sustainable local produce in the heart of NYC. After seeing this and a little research locally, I crunched some numbers, moved forward, and here I am.
When is the first harvest?
Our first seeds went in our propagation area on April 20th. They will be there for a week, under the seedling lights for another 2 weeks and in our grow towers for 4 weeks and then on to your plate just hours after we harvest. So late May early June for full production. We will have some microgreens and mini heads before that.
What are the steps to get up and running?
The early stages included some site prep, infrastructure (power and water) connection, unpacking, prepping our filters and calibrating all of the sensors.
Can you tell us a little bit about your space? Not the traditional farm scenario!
Well my son has nicknamed it the spaceship farm. It looks more like a science lab or a wing of the space station. Almost every surface is stainless steel, super clean, super slick design. We seed, propogate, grow, transplant, grow some more, harvest, weigh and package all with in 40′.
What makes this type of farming operation unique?
Well many aspects make us unique. We have committed to only use nonGMO seeds, no pesticides or herbicides, we use high efficiency LED lights and use 90% less water then a traditional farm outputting the same product. The entire farm can be controlled remotely and monitored from my smartphone.
Will Very Local Greens be a seasonal endeavor? Or can the container sustain life through the colder months?
We will be operating 365 days a year. No matter what the weather outside we maintain an optimal growing environment inside. Anything, -40C’ to 60’C we are good to grow.
Can the general public buy your greens? And if so, where? Or are you primarily targeting restaurant wholesale business?
Yes, we want to make our greens accessible to everyone. While we are very excited to get our greens in to the hands of our world class local chefs selling to the general public who appreciate high quality locally grown produce is equally important. We will be working out the best places locally to have a type of CSA pickup for our select greens. Here at Kings Wharf we have @lemarche, a great little market only 100 feet from the farm. You can be sure to see us there!
What kind of greens are you going to be growing and harvesting?
We will be adapting and changing with our customers, we will have some chef driven crops and also take advantage of growing year round. So far we have a few different varieties of lettuce, kale, and arugula. We have sorrel, basil, mint, some asian and mustard greens. Micro greens will start soon with pea shoots, radish, cress, and whatever else looks fun.
Any final thoughts on life? Food production? Fun?
I was reminded by a relative at a funeral I was attending that “it’s better to be seen then to be viewed” . We look forward to 2018 and seeing everyone! Buy local.