Agri-food company put down strong roots in Bible Hill
The team at TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture knew indoor-hydroponic farming could be the solution to providing Canadians with fresh, nutritious produce year-round — they just needed a helping hand while they proved it.
Jeff McKinnon, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer with TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture & GoodLeaf Community Farms, says they chose to set up shop in Bible Hill initially in part because of Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc. — a provincial development agency focused solely on maximizing the value of the food sector.
With Perennia’s help, the TruLeaf team was able to conduct trials to determine optimum conditions for plant growth, varieties best suited to indoor growing, and requirements to make vertical farming commercially viable.
“Perennia provided lab space for us when we were getting started, and we ended up with three units there at the peak of our initial research,” says McKinnon.
“We feel a strong connection to the people and businesses in Truro Colchester, and I don’t ever see us leaving.”
When TruLeaf needed more space, Perennia helped TruLeaf get a good deal on a space right across from their Innovation Centre. McKinnon says it was a huge win for TruLeaf, since they’d be able to open their first commercial facility without leaving Bible Hill.
“Perennia would still be right there to support us, and we’d still be close to Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus — which was a pipeline of qualified students for us to hire,” says McKinnon. “It was a deal too good to pass up, and everything worked really well.”
After TruLeaf had its first commercial launch — providing greens to retail locations and restaurants — McKinnon says it became clear that their facility was too small for their needs. They raised the money to build a farm in Guelph, Ont., and added an administrative office to Bedford so McKinnon and CEO Gregg Curwin could work closer to home occasionally. In the run of a month, they’d spend a week in Bedford, a week in Bible Hill, and two weeks in Guelph.
Today, their farm in Guelph is 10X larger than their original farm in Bible Hill, so McKinnon says that facility’s being converted into a world-class research and development space.
“We’ve raised pretty significant capital over the last 24 months with the mindset of really scaling up this business and building automated farms all over the world — and we want that research model to be based in Bible Hill,” says McKinnon.
He says Nova Scotia continually provides the company with support.
“We’re working with Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus and NSCC’s Truro campus — which has students receiving engineering and mechanical training — and I believe, between the three of us, there’s no reason why Truro can’t become the epicenter of controlled environmental agriculture,” says McKinnon. “I really believe we have all the resources needed to create that hub of activity and research. It’s just a matter of coordinating all of our resources.”
McKinnon says TruLeaf continues to have “tremendous success” in Truro Colchester, and he’s looking forward to seeing how Bible Hill’s R&D facility continues to help the company grow.
“it’s really been a great experience to foster business here because of the ease of building those relationships.”