What if there was a more sustainable way to provide fresh, truly local greens to our communities? And what if there was a way to do it while bringing diverse flavors to the table year-round?
It sounds like an ambitious goal. But it is one that Carina Biacchi and her partner, Alvaro Fernandes, are set to meet.
Ortaliza Urban Farms is a dream that has been sprouting for some time now.
Carina Biacchi is no stranger to business. With a bachelors and postgrads in business administration, she has worked in several different sectors, from NGOs to massive corporations. “I’ve mostly worked in sales and marketing” Carina states. “And I have entrepreneurship in my DNA. My parents were entrepreneurs long before I was born.”
And as formidable as Carina is, she is among good company. Alvaro Fernandes, her partner, is an Agronomist Engineer. “He’s a passionate specialist in controlled environment agriculture” Carina explains.
When the two met they quickly started dreaming about their own indoor farm. Years passed, and the two immigrated to Canada and started a family. But those entrepreneurial sparks continued to fly.
“It took us a while to build our lives in Canada,” Carina states. “But we continued to research the idea we had. We kept visiting other businesses in the industry and we even traveled to New York and other areas to see what they had to offer in terms of vertical farms.”
But what is vertical farming? Vertical farming is a growing worldwide phenomenon set to add significant value to the food system. Food security and sustainability continue to be some of the top concerns for city planners, and venture capital firms are investing big into vertical farm operations.
And what is an urban farm? Simply put, urban farming is growing food in urban areas. “We’re located right on Main Street,” Carina states. “In a commercial zoning area. That is pretty unique by itself, and the town of Kingsville has proven to be the perfect partner to help us launch our dream.”
A hyper-local farm-to-plate experience
And while Ortaliza is not the first micro green seller in the region, they are the first to create a storefront, creating an exciting farm-to-plate experience, loaded with flavor and freshness.
“We are truly local!” Carina stresses. “Sometimes, when you see that something is “local” on your grocery shelves, it’s actually from another part of the Province. That might be fine for large vegetables, but greens are special. Think of all the nutrients you would get from a full vegetable but concentrated to deliver all that deliciousness in every single bite. Microgreens require just picked freshness, so we are super, hyper-local. We’re only growing and selling here in our County.”
This business model, Carina explains, also allows them to reduce food mileage and consequently, food waste. “Leafy greens in Canada can sometimes travel thousands of miles before reaching their destination” Carina reports. “And it can take up to two weeks for the produce to get there. We have a commitment to sustainability, and we will always be local, no matter where we spread our roots to in the future.”
One of Ortaliza’s business Advisors, Adam Castle of WEtech Alliance says the launch of this business in Kingsville represents a unique opportunity for the Startup. “Here we are in the very heart of greenhouse agriculture, not just for Canada but seconded only to Holland from a global perspective,” says Castle. “So you’re planting yourself in a community that lives and breathes agriculture, who knows the value of being able to see where your food comes from and how it’s grown, at a time when the average consumer is more engaged than ever in providing the freshest, most sustainably grown food they can for themselves and their family. I applaud Kingsville for making room at their table for new kinds of agriculture, and being a business-friendly partner that our clients can count on.
“…it certainly fits hand-in-hand with the innovation and the diversification that we’re trying to identify with.”
One enthusiastic supporter of this innovative new business is Nelson Santos, the Mayor of Kingsville and the Deputy Warden of Essex.
“This isn’t your typical business, but it certainly fits in with the entrepreneurial spirit that we have in our community,” Nelson explains. “And it certainly fits hand-in-hand with the innovation and the diversification that we’re trying to identify with. They are touching on all the different aspects of what the community is looking for. Their business is one that is certainly going to turn quite a few heads. It’s very exciting, both in regards to the food aspect and the extension of agriculture.”
Ortaliza is now taking pre-orders for their home delivery service at www.Ortaliza.ca, which promises to deliver a lot more than leafy goodness.
“We want to be more than a farm-to-table service,” says Carina. “We want our customers to think of us as their weekly dose of living, natural vitamins that add easy nutrition to just about every recipe they can think of!”
To learn more and become a friend of the farm, head to www.ortaliza.ca or find them on social media at @OrtalizaFarms