Where others see a patch of trampled and weedy turf, David Gingera sees potential.
Gingera learned about the problems with the way we grow food while attending university – most produce travels long distances from the field to the grocery store, and often it’s grown with chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
At the same time, he began to learn about sustainable food production and urban agriculture, which eventually led to the creation of CitiGrow as an innovative way to support sustainable, local food production.
In 2014, the company launched its first micro-farm, which saw unused plots of land in Winnipeg converted to growing space for produce. Each plot is assigned its own micro-farmer to care for it without using GMOs or chemical products. The plots are each designed to serve specific individual functions and objectives, although all farms are meant carry out CitiGrow’s mission of bringing better food, grown in a way that betters our environment.
CitiGrow’s early customers were local restaurants and retailers. In 2015, the company earned AIR MILES Canada’s Small Business Achievement Award in the category of Social Responsibility.
This year marks the first year CitiGrow is marketing directly to individuals, with a weekly produce box filled enough fresh produce to feed a family of four. For $37.50 per week, subscribers receive produce boxes filled with seasonal food from 22 of micro-farms in and around Winnipeg that they pick up downtown. In addition to vegetable staples like tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs, boxes can include melons, less common varieties of squash or artichokes.
The community around Startup Winnipeg was beneficial to the creation of the company. Startup Winnipeg is a program of North Forge Technology Exchange.
“They really succeed at creating that atmosphere where you can just go somewhere and meet people who are going through the same things and learn from them and share your experiences with them,” said Gingera.
Startup Winnipeg’s Ramp Up weekends are one example, along with numerous other networking opportunities facilitated each year.
For Gingera, it was this network that was the most valuable for his company, even though their focus was quite different.
“Being a non-technology business in an environment where predominantly most of the startup ideas are technology-based… it’s still a very good community to be involved with for the networking aspect.”