High rise
Ashton Sequeira, president Chartwells joined Ottawa students Alida Burke and Corey Ellis, co-founders of The Growcer. The two companies have partnered to bring locally grown food to university and college campuses across Canada. Courtesy photo

OTTAWA – On March 5, Chartwells, Canada’s largest educational foodservice provider, and The Growcer, announced an exclusive partnership that will bring ‘the 100 foot farm’ to college and university campuses across Canada. The Growcer converts shipping containers into state-of-the-art vertical farms to grow fresh produce for food insecure areas. Chartwells will be the first to bring this innovative and exclusive program to the Canadian higher education landscape with this unique and exciting partnership.      

Founded by Ottawa students Corey Ellis and Alida Burke, The Growcer is a state-of-the-art farming system combining hydroponic technology with precision climate controls that allows the user to easily grow fresh produce in a contained space. Using 95 per cent less water than conventional agriculture, a Growcer container can grow up to 100 kilograms of vegetables per week because it’s a sealed system, no herbicides or pesticides are needed; and the distance the produce travels to the consumer can be as little as 100 feet – making this the ‘100 foot farm’. 

“As part of our Thinking Ahead Giving Back vision, we have made a pledge over the next three years to deliver 1,000,000 meals to tackle food insecurity both domestically and globally, provide 10,000 hours of community support around mental health and social issues facing students and create 1,000 jobs through a more focused commitment to student employment,” said Ashton Sequeira, president, Chartwells. “At Chartwells, we are committed to delivering a student-first experience on campus and this exciting partnership with The Growcer is another step towards this. We will be donating 10 per cent of annual crop grown to tackle local food insecurity as part of our commitment to deliver 1,000,000 meals over the next three years.  Teaming up with The Growcer delivers on our pledge and puts student innovation, sustainability and community engagement at the forefront of what we do.”

“We had the opportunity to partner with any of the companies in this space but we chose Chartwells because of their commitment towards social and sustainable initiatives, their support around student innovation and leadership within their executive team and all the way to their front-line associates,” added Corey Ellis, co-founder and CEO, The Growcer. “Through our partnership with Chartwells, partner colleges and universities across Canada will benefit from having fresh, local and healthy produce grown only steps away from their food halls and cafeterias, no matter the weather. We’re excited that students will get to enjoy locally-grown, nutritious meals throughout the entire year.”

“The Growcer’s incredible growth is just beginning with the global adoption of indoor farming.  More and more, we are seeing ag-tech innovations such as hydroponics being used to address food security challenges, rising population, food prices and shrinking arable land,” said Nick Quain, vice president of Invest Ottawa, whose tech acceleration program, the IO Accelerator, has provided The Growcer with business advisory and support since 2016.

“We couldn’t be more proud of The Growcer, and congratulations to Chartwells for having the vision to land this partnership with one of Ottawa’s most innovative companies.”