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ripple farms
From left: Brian Waller, Brandon Hebor and Olivia Pasut are farmers and co-owners of Ripple Farms. They have partnered with Seneca to offer a one-day boot camp about vertical farming on June 1. Both Hebor and Pasut are graduates of Seneca's Sustainable Business Management program.

May 23, 2019

You don’t need a hoe and a field to feed a village — not when you have fish anyway. And an urban aquaponics venture developed at Seneca’s on-campus incubator HELIX will show you how.

In the first and only vertical farming course to be offered in the province, farmers of the award-winning Ripple Farms have partnered with Seneca’s Faculty of Continuing Education & Training and HELIX to bring a one-day boot camp to Newnham Campus on Saturday, June 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The notion of farming has changed and we have evolved and built on three pillars: education, innovation and local food,” said Brandon Hebor, co-owner of Ripple Farms. “We want to teach people the ins and outs of vertical farming as well as the science behind aquaponics and hydroponics systems.”

ripple farms
Seneca grad Steven Bourne of Ripple Farms picks some lettuce at the Seneca Urban Farm at Newnham Campus.

Hebor and his business partner, Steven Bourne, began their food-growing project a few years ago when the two bet the farm on fish poop. Both graduates of Seneca’s Sustainable Business Management program, their first urban farming unit — a shipping container with a greenhouse atop — has drawn more than 3,000 students to their programming at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works.

Their second unit, purchased and operated by Seneca, sits across from the Odeyto Indigenous centre outside Building D. Since it was installed in 2017, the Seneca Urban Farm has produced crops harvested for Newnham cafeteria while being open to the Seneca community for tours during which people can learn about the sustainable food production system. Currently, one-sixth of the Seneca farm is dedicated to research relating to agriculture and biotechnology as conducted by Ripple Farms with the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

The third and most recent greenhouse consists of three vertical hydroponic growing racks at DANI, a non-profit in Thornhill that provides opportunities for adults with disabilities. Not only do participants at DANI get to learn about operating the greenhouse first-hand, but they also have the opportunity to become employees of the farm, selling crops to local distributors and chefs.

ripple farms
The boot camp will teach participants about the ins and outs of vertical farming as well as the science behind aquaponics and hydroponics systems.

“We are essentially building an industry that doesn’t exist in Toronto and we want to get people excited about it and bridge the gap between knowing and doing,” Hebor said. “We want to create a community of likeminded people to take the urban farming industry to the next level. The more of us, the better.”

Through a series of hands-on modules during the boot camp, participants of all levels will learn about innovative technologies and business models. They will better understand a path to production and profitability in urban agriculture as well as growing plants in controlled environments.

The last day to purchase ticket is May 30. Lunch will be provided for participants.

Register through Eventbrite.