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B.C. to allow vertical farming on ALR land

B.C. to allow vertical farming on ALR land

This will provide opportunities for ag entrepreneurs, Minister Popham said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

British Columbia is adding to the ag practices allowed on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The ALR comprises about 4.6 million acres of provincially and privately owned farmland. Ag is encouraged on these lands and non-ag uses are restricted.

The provincial government amended the Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation to allow vertical farming to take place on these lands.

The changes will take effect in August.

The pandemic and climate change have identified issues within B.C.’s ag sector that these vertical operations can help address, said Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of agriculture.

“When the pandemic and recent climate change-related floods disrupted supply chains, British Columbians were reminded of the incredible bounty in our own back yard,” she said in a Feb. 19 statement. “Opening opportunities for more vertical farms and innovative agritech practices in partnership with existing traditional farms helps solve our overall food security and food economy puzzle.”

In addition, allowing vertical farming on the ALR falls in line with B.C.’s StrongerBC Economic Plan.

The plan highlights how the province is home to “150 innovative companies that are developing and using leading-edge technologies to enhance productivity, increase sustainability and improve food security. These companies are filled with workers who want to be farmers – just different types of farmers.”

Industry representatives are pleased with these new opportunities.

Allowing vertical farming on ALR land shows food production is changing.

“It’s kind of a monumental shift in the way the province is looking at food security, Tim Fernback, chief financial officer of CubicFarms, a B.C. vertical farming equipment manufacturer, told the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.

Not all producers are in favour of the changes, however.

Allowing vertical farming on ALR land goes against the government’s commitment to the ALR, said Raquel Kolof owner of Hough Heritage Farm.

“It appears that the ministry of agriculture is more interested in paving the way for corporations to earn big profits than they are fulfilling their mandate to preserve farmland,” she said, Country Life in B.C. reported. “They are throwing away one of our critical tools to grow healthy food and fight climate change and all for corporate profit.”

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