Allpa Vertical Farms
If you see three workers in a Calgary hardware store huddled in intense conversation, you might want to lean in. They could be planning to change the world.
Or at least change the way we look at farming.
That was the story in 2018, when students and coworkers Andrey Salazar, Guillermo Borges, and Zakk Tambasco met and discovered a mutual passion for technology and sustainability. From that passion emerged Allpa Vertical Farms, an urban producer of microgreens.
Salazar, a Columbian refugee from a coffee farming family, was studying electronics engineering and physics in Calgary. He saw vertical farming as a way to reduce the water and space demands of traditional farming as well as tackle global food insecurity. “With this technology, we can grow 365 days a year, regardless of the weather,” he says – and in his basement had started doing exactly that.
Borges, a new Canadian from Venezuela, was studying marketing and entrepreneurship at MRU. “I saw a legitimate opportunity from a business perspective [and] that we could have a real impact,” he says.
They pulled Tambasco into the mix, a Strathcona County-raised kid whose farming background, he says, “provides the bridge between science and business.” Together, they outfitted an 1,100-square-foot facility in Foothills Industrial Park to grow nutrient-dense microgreens under LED lights in a vertically-stacked and closely-controlled hydroponic system.
The trio is committed to local sourcing, from seeds to compostable packaging to labels. Theyʼre also serious about giving back to the community, donating any excess crop to the Calgary Community Fridge and contributing five per cent of their net proceeds to charities chosen by their Instagram followers in monthly polls.
Borges sums it up for the team: “We want to transcend what it means to be a company that sells produce. To have an actual impact beyond the nutrition, beyond the environmental value – and to share our success.”
Look for Allpaʼs microgreens at Sunterra Market locations and the Italian Centre Shop. allpaverticalfarms.ca