Last year, Chris Hildreth graduated from the University of Victoria and hit the ground running with a dream of bringing a unique, sustainable concept to Victoria’s local food economy.
He used money that he’d won in business competitions at UVic to mount a pilot project on the rooftop of 1001 Blanshard St. where he grew produce in 400 environmentally friendly planters — produce that was used by Fiamo Italian Kitchen.
The project was an overwhelming success.
“We produced about 10 times more food than we’d anticipated,” said Hildreth. “At the end of the season we knew that we had a winner on our hands and this year’s expansion was made possible.”
With his Blanshard Street location now unavailable because of construction, Hildreth sought out a new, expanded location and found the perfect partner at Dockside Green.
Dockside Green is contributing 9,000 square feet of vacant land to the project. It’s part of their BETA Project — an initiative to establish a portion of Dockside Green as a testing ground for small, local businesses as well as arts and cultural initiatives. The much larger site will be home for 2,400 of the smart pots — containers full of composted soil in which a variety of vegetables will be planted for use by local restaurants. When harvested, the material will be washed and placed in reusable containers, which will then be moved by bicycles to the participating restaurants.
“It’s a zero carbon footprint operation,” said Hildreth. “And when you have a salad at one of the participating restaurants you’ll know that the food you’re eating is fresh…picked a few blocks away in the last 24 hours. Compare that with the large majority of food that we currently consume that travels large distances through very complex distribution systems. This is really a better alternative…the way of the future.”
The participating restaurants for this year’s crop are Canoe Brewpub, Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub, and Fiamos Italian Kitchen.
Hildreth anticipates that the first crop from his urban farm will be delivered to restaurants on April 22, which is also Earth Day.