“The majority of people do not know much about vertical farming, which can lead to a lack of understanding of its benefits and risks and resistance to adoption. Education is essential to ensure that the Little Greenhouse That Could deliver on its vision”, says Trina Semenchuk, founder and CEO of the company.
Little Greenhouse That Could wanted to make Winnipeg the world’s vertical farming city. The company sells indoor growing systems (Nullam horizontal units and Harvest Today vertical growing walls) and holds educational workshops to teach people how to grow crops indoors.
Trina Semenchuk pictured (left) at Indoor AgTech 2022 with Oumayma Nouib of Voltz Maraîchage
“We are currently focusing on pre-schools, primary schools and high schools because youth are our future. We are in the process of tailoring our educational workshops to different age groups, but each session will include information on how plant growth responds to controlled environmental conditions”, says Trine.
Little Greenhouse That Could always plans to start workshops with the company’s vision: what Winnipeg would look like if it were the world’s vertical farm city. Trina hopes that the initiative will inspire children and young people and keep them in the loop about what horticulture is all about and means.
Children learn to build their own growth systems
Trina, who is studying at the University of Manitoba, also volunteers at St. John’s High School in technology classes. Working with two teachers (Danny Birley and Thomas Murphy), she taught children to design and build their own indoor growing systems.
Trina explains that all vegetables from these cultivation systems are used for consumption in the school canteen. It is a successful and rewarding project because the students at Sankt Johannes are very involved in the process. Many of them learned to use instruments for the first time, and almost all groups learn to improvise to make their systems work.
“I’m very proud of them, even though one group said they don’t want to work on vertical farming projects anymore because it’s too difficult. But hopefully they’ll always have the project in mind,” she adds.
Trina’s goal for 2023 is to create a vertical agricultural market in Winnipeg with education as a resource. In the coming year, she hopes to bring her workshops to at least 50 schools in Winnipeg.
In addition, Trina aims to expand her target group to include families and institutions by collaborating with community centers and local businesses. “Getting adults involved is important as we need people who understand the role of vertical farming in a resilient food system, which is a requirement to secure funding for future vertical farming projects.”
Manitoba as the center of vertical farming
“I think many people agree that vertical farming will play a role in creating a sustainable food system and can coexist with traditional horticulture. However, there are several reasons why I believe Winnipeg is the perfect place to become the capital of vertical farming. To start with, our average frost-free growing season lasts only 120 days,” explains Trina.
Next, Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba, is the perfect size to be a proof-of-concept city. With a population of 833,000, it is generally known as a great little city. This means two things: first, that this city can demonstrate the different roles of vertical farming in a food system, and second, that everyone has a lot of “city pride”.
A cultivation tower
“People are really connected here. So we just need to generate enough interest and the snowball will start rolling. Finally, it’s the perfect city because it’s my city and I love it. I want her to make it even better . If we have more vertical farms in our city, we can better organize the food supply locally, create jobs and make up for our lack of harvest in winter.”
Trina notes that indoor ag is becoming more popular in Canada with more options becoming available each year. Most recently, Trina was on a team that applied for funding for the Home Grown Innovation Challenge, an initiative that awards funds to groups in Canada that design systems that extend the harvest season for soft fruit.
A representation of how Trina sees indoor agriculture being integrated into cities like Winnipeg
“Little Greenhouse That Could is a small company with a big vision. Many partnerships are needed to make the dream come true. We start with training, but we also need people’s help later in the technical design and business development. I want to start building my own skill set, so if there are any companies looking for an enthusiastic engineer in training, let me know, I still have a lot to learn,” concludes Trina.
For more information:
Trina Semenchuk (Founder and CEO)
Small greenhouse that could