The Growcer signs produce supply deal with university food services firm Chartwells


Ottawa-based hydroponics startup The Growcer will soon be installing its high-tech system for growing fruits and vegetables at colleges and universities across Canada.

The three-year-old company announced this week it has signed a partnership with food-services provider Chartwells Canada to set up mini-hydroponic farms in converted shipping containers on post-secondary campuses around the country. The produce grown inside will be sold to Chartwells, the largest supplier of food services to colleges and universities in Canada.

“Through our partnership with Chartwells, partner colleges and universities across Canada will benefit from having fresh, local and healthy produce grown only steps away from their food halls and cafeterias, no matter the weather,” The Growcer co-founder and CEO Corey Ellis said in a statement.

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“We’re excited that students will get to enjoy locally grown, nutritious meals throughout the entire year.”

Founded by Ellis and Alida Burke when they were students at the University of Ottawa in 2016, The Growcer combines hydroponic technology with climate controls that allow users to grow fresh produce in a contained space. The company claims the system uses 95 per cent less water than conventional agricultural methods and can grow up to 100 kilograms of vegetables per week without the need for herbicides or pesticides.

The company’s products have already been used in Canada’s Arctic, and last year the firm installed one of its retrofitted shipping containers at the University of Ottawa campus in a joint venture with Chartwells.

Now a member of Invest Ottawa’s accelerator, The Growcer appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den earlier this year, where its founders landed a $250,000 equity offer for 30 per cent of the company, a deal they accepted on the show but did not finalize.

Ellis told Techopia Live in 2018 the company’s goal is to enable any community in Canada to be more more self-reliant when it comes to food.

“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,” he said.

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