ColdAcre Food Systems of Whitehorse is expanding its business capacity with a brand-new processing facility.
The facility is used to organize and package the greens and herbs grown in ColdAcre’s year-round hydroponic greenhouse, which opened in 2020.
Denise Gordon, ColdAcre’s chief operating officer, said the facility could potentially support the Yukon’s network of growers.
The facility, which was constructed this year, includes two walk-in fridges, a production room and a processing and storage area.
It’s used to package fresh and dry goods to the standards required by local grocery stores.
For many local food producers who currently sell fresh produce by the truckload at the summertime Fireweed Market, breaking into the next tier of retailing is difficult due, in part, to the processing requirements.
“The barrier to entry for a lot of producers is quite high to get anywhere past going to market,” Gordon told the News on March 7. “So that’s what we’re wanting to do here, to expand our own capacity and then be able to accept foods from other producers.”
The processing facility has been up and running since September.
It’s more than doubled ColdAcre’s capacity to process goods and get them to market. Gordon estimated that 800 pounds are now processed every week, compared to 300 pounds before at the facility.
ColdAcre’s hydroponic greenhouse, which is built into two retrofitted seacans, hummed warmly on March 10 despite the sub-zero temperatures outside. Gordon pointed out the lines of lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens, mint, basil and parsley.
The herbs sell well, as they’re the hardest to find in northern grocery stores, but they’re slow to grow, Gordon explained. Dark greens are the biggest sellers.
“I think people are appreciative of just having year-round, fresh greens,” Gordon said.
Gordon said their biggest cost is electricity. Due to the controlled environment, losses are low, and there’s little waste and water usage. The water is constantly recirculated through the planters.
The greens are sold in stores and delivered to ColdAcre’s Winter Harvest subscribers, which delivers weekly or biweekly baskets of local food.
Subscribers choose from a huge menu of local items, including ColdAcre herbs and salad mixes. There are also beets, carrots and potatoes on offer from Yukon Grain Farm; Little Red Hen eggs; frozen Home Sweet Home pies; Landed Bakehouse bread and meat from the Yukon Meat Co. and Takhini River Ranch.
Gordon said that the subscription service has grown in popularity with the addition of more vendors, which provides the full spectrum of a basic grocery shop, from vegetables to dairy and meat.
“The support from the community has been amazing,” Gordon said.
ColdAcre Food Systems received $85,345 towards the food processing facility and a marketing plan from a federal Northern Isolated Communities Initiative (NICI). It also received $112,888 from the Yukon’s Economic Development fund and $24,700 from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org