Techopia Live: Hydroponics firm the Growcer returns food security to Canada’s north

Ahead of this week’s Design Day at the University of Ottawa, Techopia Live spoke to one of the event’s star alumni, an Ottawa-based hydroponics system developer called the Growcer.

CEO and co-founder Corey Ellis broke down the company’s technology, which looks like the cross between an industrial shipping container and a greenhouse. Ellis explained that plants really only need light, CO2 and nutrient-rich to grow, and that the Growcer’s hydroponics design uses automated LED lights and water systems to farm vegetation in harsh environments.

That has made the tech especially useful in Canada’s North, where the Growcer has implemented and tested its systems in an attempt to reduce vegetation costs and return food security to northern and indigenous communities.

“Now that we have a product that’s really robust, I think we can offer that to a much wider audience,” Ellis told Techopia Live.

“We can do a lot with the technology we have now to allow any community, not only in northern Canada, but in Canada in general to be more self-reliant. So I’d love to see a Growcer system in every major city in Canada.”

Ellis pointed to the student-run Enactus organization as the roots of the firm’s success. Enactus encourages students to put a social lens on the impacts of their ventures and consider how a firm’s business model can improve lives as well as earn a few dollars.

“How can I do more than just make money or just have a day job that’s nine-to-five?” Ellis said. “My experience in Enactus over the last four years was the catalyst for thinking in this way.”

Hydroponics and social benefit will also be on display at third edition of the University of Ottawa’s Design Day, where this coming Thursday more than 100 projects from almost 500 students will be on display. The event is open to the public and will feature designs and prototypes around the themes of eco-friendly housing, robotic environmental clean-up and, yes, hydroponics systems.

Watch the video above to get more details about Design Day and to hear more about how the Growcer works.