An Oak Bay resident is hoping to increase the amount of locally-produced food through a new pilot project that’s proving the sky is the limit.
Chris Hildreth, a recent UVic grad who studied environmental studies and sociology, recently launched Topsoil, one of the first urban commercial rooftop gardens on 1001 Blanshard St. On the roof he grows fresh produce that is then delivered to Fiamo Italian Kitchen to use in their dishes.
“I wanted to provide restaurants with the highest quality of fresh local produce as possible, but in a quantity that they can really be using on a consistent basis, not just a couple of sprigs of basil on their salad,” said Hildreth, who came up with the idea in a food and society class.
“I want everything from that salad to be from the rooftop.”
In the 500-square-foot garden, there are 20 beds growing kale, arugula, ruby streaks, mixed lettuce, two different types of tomatoes, red and green peppers, jalapeno and cayenne peppers, rosemary and thyme as well as edible flowers in large quantities.
The soil, which is made from peat moss and compost, is watered with a timed water irrigation system that goes off every morning for about five minutes.
“The whole point of this project is to research the productivity and viability of creating a commercial urban rooftop agriculture business in Victoria,” said Hildreth, who is currently running the entire operation by himself.
Once a week, Hildreth will harvest roughly 20 pounds of leafy greens and other produce, box and deliver it to Fiamo’s kitchen that is just a seven minute walk away from the garden.
James Avila, chef at Fiamo, said he uses the arugula on pizzas, flowers and basil as garnishes, lettuces in salads and grills the kale.
“You can taste the difference right away. You can taste arugula grown outside Victoria and the arugula that we have from him and it’s 100 per cent better quality, taste and experience out of his product,” said Avila.
“We just want to bring the best stuff in here everyday and win, and that’s what this program is with Chris, it’s a winning project.”
For Hildreth, it’s now about expanding the project and he already has a lot of interest.
“I’ve Googled Earthed the entire city and there’s acres and acres of rooftop space. No pun intended, but the sky is the limit for doing this,” he said, adding that he has rooftops in mind to build more gardens and has more than a dozen local restaurants interested in getting on board.