Rooftop farms are gaining momentum as a solution for providing local and sustainable food to high-density communities. Located on top of a former Sears warehouse in Montreal, Lufa Farms is another innovative urban farming initiative, but with a tech-savvy twist.
Rather than selling their produce through local stores, Lufa built a website, called “the Marketplace,” to manage supply and demand and even connect customers with goods from other local growers and makers. Through the site, customers can sign up for grocery boxes, and the other local businesses Lufa collaborates with can log on to see forecasted demand numbers for their additional products.
For example, artisanal Montreal bakery, la Fabrique Arhoma, has been supplying bread and other baked goods to Lufa grocery boxes for six years. By logging on to the Lufa software, they can see what the daily demand will be for baked goods and provide accordingly. During the pandemic, the bakery was even able to redirect their bread that usually supplied restaurants and sell it through Lufa instead.
Lufa currently employs a team of eight programmers to track growth, e-commerce, collaborations, deliveries, vendor payments, and more. The highly tracked system means Lufa knows exactly how much it’s growing, significantly reducing their food waste. On top of the extremely efficient system, Lufa also uses no pesticides or herbicides, captures rainwater for irrigation, and composts all their green waste.
Today, Lufa operates four greenhouses to produce 57,000 pounds of food a week. The pandemic forced the company to adjust operations, but in many ways, their online platform was already well-prepared for the crisis. Unlike other CSA box services, Lufa’s extensive online systems allow customers to customize their box so each of Lufa’s 25,000 weekly boxes looks a little different.
Lufa’s produce is delivered to consumers on the same day it was picked and can be delivered or picked up from locations around Montreal. The model has caught the attention of government officials and researchers who see the combination of localized regenerative agriculture and high tech distribution platforms as a way to sustainably feed cities.
Although Lufa is revolutionizing the food supply chain, its founders didn’t get their start in agriculture. Cofounders Mohamed Hage and Lauren Rathmell started Lufa in 2009 with a vision for better food systems. Hage told Fortune, “We said, ‘Instead of learning how the food world works, let’s just come up with what we feel the food world should be.’”