Optimizing Greenhouses: Interius Farms is Growing their Environmental and Social Impact

Interius Farms is optimizing greenhouses growing operations with their proprietary vertical technology 🥬🍓

Check out our interview with co-founder Jonnie Lawson to learn more about Interius Farms operations. We are excited to support them in our international tour to WCEF in Brussels.

Interius Farms

What motivated you and your co-founders to start Interius Farms?

My co-founder Tristan Zeman and I were both in business school and had converged on the idea that business could be a powerful tool for driving sustainable social and environmental impact. We set out to look for opportunities where a business, through the nature of its growth, could be a catalyst for environmental impact and, at some point along the way, came across vertical farming. With vertical farming companies taking root in other parts of North America, we figured that the business was bound to work in Quebec, where crops like lettuce and strawberries are 80-90% import-dependent and there is low-cost and low emissions electricity from a hydro-powered grid. We have since pivoted the business, now focusing on deploying our technology in greenhouse growing operations where improving their spatial efficiency helps reduce CAPEX, emissions and operating costs.

What are some challenges you and your Co-founders or your entire company are facing while scaling your startup?

One of our biggest challenges has been access to capital. Venture capital dollars started to dry up over the past year or so, and there have been many failures in the vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture sector. We haven’t seen much excitement in vertical farming and greenhouse projects the same way there was in previous years. So, the lack of interest in conjunction with some competitors who are more scaled, made it almost impossible for us to raise capital with our initial business model of building and operating farms.

We started looking at different opportunities for applying our technology and, in speaking with greenhouse growers, realized that we were uniquely positioned to improve their operations by bringing vertical farming into greenhouses at scale. We have since shifted to collaborating with greenhouse growers, which has proven to be a more effective utilization of the technology we've developed—both in terms of the cost effectiveness of the technology and the capital efficiency of our own business.

How did the Dobson Centre play a role in Interius Farms as we know it today?

The Dobson Centre gave us our start; when we first came to the Dobson Centre and competed in the Dobson Cup, all we had was a pitch deck and an idea. In 2020, we were fortunate enough to win the Dobson Cup for our track and as two students coming out of college we wouldn't have otherwise had the resources to scale up from there. Winning the $25, 000 from the Cup in grant funding, allowed us to rent our first facility and run more trials. Which then led to raising our first round of external funding. The Dobson Cup essentially gave us that push we needed to scale up.

Since then, the mentorship and guidance from fellow entrepreneurs have provided invaluable advice and generous support throughout Interius Farms journey.

Who would be an ideal partner or collaborator for Interius Farms in the future or right now?

There are about three buckets of partnerships we are looking to make in the future. Firstly, we want to partner with commercial growers. Those are really our clients, but we like to view them as partners since we are embedded in their operations. We have some really good trials lined up with some of Canada’s leading growers and are looking to add more internationally.

Our next ideal partner is in the technology development sector as we are looking to develop complimentary technology, like harvest automation. Looking for those key technology partners who can provide systems or tech that complement what we do.

Lastly, we are looking to collaborate with project-based equity financing partners. Finding ways to help our partner growers get projects funded. Essentially financing partners who are cash flow driven and interested in investing in real assets.

What are you most excited about for WCEF in Brussels?

I'm excited to be traveling with fellow entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, it can sometimes be isolating and lonely when you have such a small team to scale up so it's exciting to go on this journey with other like-minded founders.

We are really looking forward to exploring the European market, particularly because we have visits lined up with some of the leading R&D centers and greenhouse technology companies in the Netherlands. Having the opportunity to travel to Europe and connect with innovative centers and companies is an invaluable experience for Interius Farms.

Interius Farms

Interius Farms is a Montreal based greenhouse growing systems and technology company. Founded with a mission to make fresh, sustainable produce affordable, Interius has developed a proprietary growing system that brings the spatial efficiency of vertical farming into the greenhouse. By dramatically increasing the spatial yields of production for strawberries and leafy greens, Interius reduces the capital and emissions intensity of its partner growers’ operations. Having demonstrated its technology in with a first commercial installation in Quebec, Interius is now seeking to continue to expand its operations.

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