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Good Life Farms Inc. brings sustainable farming to Cochrane

A sustainable farmer in town aims to make Cochrane lettuce-independent using a closed environment system that can produce thousands of vegetables a week, while also remaining environmentally sustainable.

A new cutting-edge farm located on Retreat Road intends to bring the most nutritious and delicious vegetables to plates around Cochrane, along with a mission to be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Sustainable farmer and owner of Good Life Farms Inc. Chad Randal said his closed environment system is capable of bringing plenty of fresh produce to the community.

Although the farm only just opened in early December, the idea arose 10 years ago, after Randal learned about the possibility of using sea cans as green houses.

“They could supposedly grow tomatoes and all these things and it was in the back of my head,” Randal said.

Previously, Randal and his wife Nicole were owners of a successful water conservation and treatment technologies business for the oil and gas industry. After being approached by a group that purchased the business, Randal and his wife embarked on a new journey.  

“Last year, my wife and I were invited to Dubai, UAE, by some friends to see what the world is like there,” Randal said.

“We were so fortunate because COVID was on, [and] we ended up in a situation where they hosted the Expo 2020, so we basically spent six months and learned about the planet and what every country is doing about sustainability and to preserve our future.”

As part of something that was a part and core interest of both their lives, Randal and his wife became engaged in learning more about what they were shown in Dubai. A trip to nearby Abu Dhabi put them on the path toward purchasing one of the mobile farming units.

“We went to Abu Dhabi [for] a sustainability conference, and unbeknownst to us, there was a company there from Singapore selling these farms you could purchase,” Randal said. “So, I met with them and went through stuff and then I started doing my own research on the whole concept and we found a company in North America that had experience building these already.

“We ended up purchasing two of these farms because we were like, 'We want to take this back home and be able to spread this strategy, if you will, to all small Alberta towns.' And what place better than our own to start with?”

Randal said each of the two farms can grow 12,000 heads of lettuce per month year-round. Despite only having 320 square feet of farming space, Randal said the farms can grow the equivalent of three football fields worth of produce.

As part of a community of only 600 closed environment system-based farms around the world, the Good Life Farms were also recognized as the runner up for the ‘Best Farm Wrap’ for the exterior design of their enclosed space.

Randal described the closed environment system as a smaller-scale farm that is a sealed, environmentally-controlled system that controls oxygen, carbon dioxide levels, humidity, and temperature.

“So, what is does is it creates the perfect growing environment 24/7,” Randal said. “It’s a sealed system so there’s no bugs, weeds, fungi, no anything. It’s a pure, clean environment.”

Another advantage of the closed environment system is the efficiency, with only 20 litres of water being used on each farm per day.

The farms are also partially powered with solar panels and include an electric vehicle charging station. Randal added that in the future, he plans to use an electric vehicle to make deliveries. This is all part of his strategy to keep the farm green and sustainable.

Although similar, hydroponic or aquaponic-type farms traditionally only grow leafy green produce, Randal said he recently learned that he can grow many other forms of crops in his space.

“We’ve identified that there’s about 500 varieties of produce we can grow in them,” Randal said. “And right now, we are growing everything from carrots to radishes, beets, kohlrabi, and turnips.”

As the farms can produce thousands of vegetables on a weekly basis, Randal said the plan is to distribute as much fresh produce as possible to grocery stores in town and farmers markets like The Local Yokel.

Since Good Life Farms is based in Cochrane, the community can receive the freshest possible produce with the highest nutritional value. Compared to produced shipped to grocery stores, vegetables headed to town will not lose as much as two per cent of their nutritional value per day.

With a goal of ensuring the community receives the most nutritious vegetables that are produced locally and in a sustainable environment, Randal said he also wanted to do it in a way that benefits Cochrane.

“Our goal is to support the local community first,” Randal said. “So, we’re focusing on the farmers market, and we have also been in contact with another local retail supplier of produce to supply local-grown Cochrane produce.

“My dream is to make Cochrane lettuce-independent!”

Daniel Gonzalez

About the Author: Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2022. He is a graduate of the Mount Royal University Journalism program. He has worked for the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta and as a reporter in rural Alberta for the ECA Review.
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