Technological foresight

Departments - Consumer Corner

Ontario-based Vision Greens has its eye on leveraging technology to grow the best produce possible.

July 19, 2022

Photo courtesy of Vision Greens

Lenny Louis has a technology background that he brought with him to the vertical farming space. 

Louis, the CEO of Ontario-based vertical farm Vision Greens, spent 12 years working at Microsoft, spent a stretch heading up Tesla Canada and was the head of a cannabis company called dosist. 

“I like the application of technology to disrupt industry,” he says. “That’s what Tesla was. That’s what my cannabis company was. ... The inception of [Vision Greens] was to put a dent in the food system by impacting food safety, food security and food sustainability.” Louis was an early investor into the company as a result before becoming CEO and a board member. 

Louis brings that same approach to Vision Greens, which was founded a year ago and recently secured $7 million in new funding. He also notes that growing technology — be it Vision Greens’ or another company’s — is not the “end all, be all.” For Vision Greens to be successful long-term, he says the key is actually being able to live up to the technology’s potential.

“Ultimately, if it is not affordable for the end consumer, then no matter how great your product is, and despite the fact that it’s sustainable and locally grown, it becomes a niche product if you can’t get it out to the masses,” he says. 

Spotlight on basil

Vision Greens currently grows six products, including a Zesty Arugula, a Crunchy Red Leaf Lettuce and a living Genovese basil. Each product was picked to support a consumer base Louis says is overly reliant on imported product.

“Most of the basil that comes to Canada is product that is grown for weathering transportation and weathering the long distances,” Louis says. “It’s not grown for flavor, for the aromatics, for the nutrition. We felt we could have a differentiated product.” He adds that they plan to sell in areas outside of Ontario, both in other provinces and the in U.S., in the future.

Picking the Genovese basil to grow vs. other options was also a specific choice. For one, it had similarities to other cultivars they planned on growing — making it easier to grow multiple crops at the farm. Secondly, the Genovese basil is an Italian basil usually only found in Italy. 

“The living part is because we grow it with the root intact, and we do that because we know it will extend shelf life,” Louis says. “With basil, especially with fresh basil, it’s meant to be kept outside. By keeping it in the plug, it extends the shelf life.” So far, Louis says their living basil is one of their two best-selling products along with their green leaf lettuce. 

“Consumers don’t eat [basil] like they eat lettuce,” he says. “They want to have access to it more than they need it for their next meal.”