Cloverdale CEO to Talk Farm Tech at TEDxChilliwack in April

Cloverdale Reporter | Original Article

Dave Dinesen will show how technology can create local, fresh, affordable leafy greens

The CubicFarm System moves rows of leafy greens through a system calibrated to grow the perfect crop. ( cubicfarms.com )

The CubicFarm System moves rows of leafy greens through a system calibrated to grow the perfect crop. (cubicfarms.com)

Longtime Cloverdale resident Dave Dinesen will be giving a talk on the future of agricultural technology at an upcoming TEDx conference in Chilliwack.

Dinesen is the CEO of Langley-based Cubic Farm Systems Corp. His talk will focus on the opportunities that technology can give farmers and food-lovers to provide and consume locally grown produce.

Advances in ‘ag tech,’ he said, are “enabling us to grow large amounts of food … locally at a commercial scale — profitably — so we can stop doing crazy things like shipping a head of lettuce thousands of miles from California only for the privilege of throwing it out in the garbage,” he said.

At first glance, a CubicFarms System looks like a vertical garden, but it isn’t the same at all, according to Dinesen.

Vertical gardens are static, stacked rows of plants and growing lights. A CubicFarms System rotates rows of plants to sit under a single row of light — cutting down on electrical and energy costs. It also means less labour and less space is needed to grow crops.

An “enormous amount of produce grows very, very efficiently,” said Dinesen, explaining that the system uses about 1/4 of the amount of labour while producing 2 1/2 times more produce.

By Dinesen’s count, the system is 12 times more efficient than traditional methods. It’s what makes it profitable on a commercial scale, he said. After all, the leafy greens coming out of CubicFarm have to compete in the grocery store with “California prices.”

CubicFarms systems are sold globally, as well as in the Fraser Valley. Produce from a Pitt Meadows-area CubicFarm sells at many IGA stores and Fresh St. Markets, for example, as well as being served up in local restaurants.

The systems grow hundreds of varieties of leafy greens — romaine, spring mixes, kale, bok choy, you name it — as well as herbs and microgreens, many of which have a one-week turnaround time from seed to harvest.

Plants grow quickly because the system allows a farmer to “provide the perfect environment for each crop,” said Dinesen.

The crop grow quickly, and keeps longer, too, thanks to a unique method of harvesting.

When a plant is harvested from the CubicFarm, the roots stay on and the crop remains alive. It means an “unprecedented” shelf life, said Dinesen.

If you buy a typical head of lettuce from the grocery store, he explained, you need to eat it within a few days or it begins to decay. But CubicFarm produced lettuce still has its roots. “It will live two or three weeks in the fridge and still be delicious,” he said.