Founder and CEO, Urban Stalk
Using vertical farming technologies, Hamilton, Ontario-based Urban Stalk is practicing sustainable agriculture and helping ensure healthy food for at-risk communities.
Access to nutritious foods is critical to good health. But according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, 4.4 million Canadians are classified as food insecure.
Founded in 2018, Urban Stalk aims to make food insecurity a thing of the past. As one of Canada’s first fully circular hydroponic crop producer, Urban Stalk is using leading technology in vertical farming to ensure an abundant supply of healthy and sustainably produced crops that are accessible to all.
Mediaplanet recently spoke with Brent Downey, Urban Stalk’s Founder and CEO, to learn more about how his company is transforming agriculture and solving food security challenges through circular processes.
What inspired you to establish Urban Stalk?
First, my own education and research around circular economic principles in Canada, France, and South Korea exposed me to the idea that agriculture could be transformative to environmental sustainability. Second, I grew up in a single-parent household where we experienced food insecurity. I wanted to take my education, skill set, and experience to create an organization that would help ensure that future generations won’t know what food insecurity is.
How is Urban Stalk supporting the circular economy?
We created what’s known as FOSESUS Pod technology — that’s food security and sustainability put together. The FOSESUS Pods create micro-controlled environments that are customized for different types of produce to ensure they’re grown to have the highest nutritional impact and are free from harmful chemicals. Using this technology and working with our retail partners, we’ve been able to divert a lot of organic waste from landfill and turn it into a natural nutrient base to grow new food. So, you might say we’re a Grower Plus in that we’re not just delivering produce that we grow but also helping our clients adopt more circular practices and become more environmentally sustainable.
You might say we’re a Grower Plus in that we’re not just delivering produce that we grow but also helping our clients adopt more circular practices and become more environmentally sustainable.
Why are community partnerships, both in Canada and abroad, so critical to your success?
You need community involvement, incentives, and partners to create a circular supply chain. For example, the retail grocers we work with commit to separating organic waste from natural waste disposal and offer them price and quantity discounts in return. We also work with academic and innovation partners across Canada and the United States, specifically around natural resource challenges. These partnerships are necessary to bring forth that innovation that will propel us forward.
How is Urban Stalk supporting and empowering communities to be food secure?
That’s tied into our social vision, under the One Health One Planet Initiative which is comprised of four pillars:
- Help at-risk and urban communities gain access to healthy foods
- Ensure a resilient local supply of organic and local foods
- Continuously innovate and improve agricultural technology and
- Educate future generations on the importance of nutritional health
Why are alternative forms of agriculture so important to food security?
We’re quite reliant on imported food products from the U.S., particularly from California, where there have been many droughts and forest fires. As climate change accelerates and government policies change, we need a Plan B to ensure domestic food security. COVID-19 has taught us that things can change very fast, and when push comes to shove, export-based countries like the U.S. start to become more domestically focused. We need to start thinking outside the box and look to alternative farming to ensure a secure food supply for ourselves.