Marseni “vertical” farm

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Leaving much of their nomadic hunter-gatherer skills and existence behind them, humans settled down and started domesticating plants and wildlife – farming, in other words – about 11,000 years ago.

And the first obstacle they faced was probably unpredictable weather.

Too hot, too cold, pests, too much rain, not enough rain, rain at the wrong time and sabretooth cats: the temperamentality of Mother Nature isn’t an issue at Marseni Farm, however.

Located along the Nation River in Casselman, the new farm currently grows basil and a variety of lettuces and herbs – and they do it in a completely controlled indoor environment.

Covering 10,000 sq.-ft. and known as a “vertical farm,” Marseni began calculating formulas, crunching data and testing the best way to grow certain crops in April 2023.

The small company of a half-dozen employees was then packaging its produce for stores in the early weeks of 2024, including the No Frills in Casselman, Mike Dean Local Grocer in Bourget and Independent in Rockland.

Agronomist Maxime Gagnier with a rotary of Romaine.

With facilities spread out over two floors of an old building erected in the 1960s, the business retrofitted the space into a maze of hallways, growing rooms and refrigerated areas holding trays of basil and lettuce sprouts behind PVC strip curtains.

A conveyor belt just beneath the ceiling brings in fresh soil from an adjacent room and then snakes its way back around the facility to remove used soil for composting.

There’s a heavy-duty water filtration system and racks of empty food-grade stainless steel trays waiting to be loaded with seeds and soil.

In several areas, there are computer screens and laptops, while a robotic device in a glass case plants seeds into the trays: of course, the robot can do in 45 minutes what it would take two humans three hours to do.

A few injection rotaries in upper level.

After their time spent as tiny sprouts in their trays, the basil and lettuce are moved to the primary growing room and loaded into a series of large stainless-steel “wheels,” mechanisms built by Gigrow, a Quebec company; the dozens of wheels look like a stack of turbines or the engine room of a Brobdingnagian space station in a science fiction movie.

Turning through 360 degrees every 50 minutes, the wheels of “injection rotary garden” system (currently 28 of 50 machines are in operation at Marseni) ensure the young plants get optimal amounts of water, fertilizer and light – elements that farmers regularly worry about – each day as they slowly rotate.

For the rest of this story about Ferme Marseni Farm, please visit Andre Paquette Editions.

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