Vertical farm
UTSC and Centennial are teaming up to establish the EaRTH District. Among the plans include Canada's first net zero vertical farm.
Monday, April 22 - 2019
Don Campbell

U of T Scarborough and Centennial College are teaming up to establish the EaRTH District – an initiative aimed at advancing the clean tech sector through research, academic programming and commercialization.

EaRTH, which stands for Environmental and Related Technologies Hub, will be located at U of T Scarborough and will be a knowledge and training hub in the Eastern GTA around the development of clean technologies.

“We know the future belongs to sustainable, clean technology and this partnership complements the strengths of both Centennial College and U of T Scarborough,” says Andrew Arifuzzaman, U of T Scarborough’s CAO.

U of T Scarborough is renowned for its expertise in the environmental sciences, while Centennial College is a leader in providing training in new and emerging sectors of the economy, says Arifuzzaman.

“This commitment is also an exciting opportunity to bring economic activity and jobs to the Eastern GTA in a sector that is only going to become more important in the future.”

Among the partnership plans include the development of Canada’s first net-zero vertical farm and living lab that will apply innovative technologies to food production in an urban setting. Net-zero means the building will produce as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. 

The vertical farm will create training and research opportunities in a variety of fields including waste management, clean energy, sustainable building design, water conservation, and urban agriculture, among others.

Andrew Petrou, director of strategic initiatives and external relations at Centennial College, says clean tech is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Ontario economy and that the EaRTH District will help train a skilled workforce to ensure the province remains internationally competitive.

“Every single component of the building, from the heating and cooling to the lighting to the vertical farm, is an element that students, industry and the community can interact with,” says Petrou.

“The goal is that they would be able to engage with this facility at all levels through programming, research, testing and experiential learning opportunities.”

Petrou adds that an important goal of the EaRTH District is to bring together industry, government, community and academia to develop clean technology that can help build more resilient communities. Another is to connect with other clean tech innovation hubs across the world, building a global network to support and advance the sector.  

Vertical farm
A view of what the vertical farm may look like. The facility will provide training and research opportunities in a variety of clean technology fields. 

U of T Scarborough and Centennial College signed a memorandum of understanding in early 2019 and have already undergone an extensive consultation process for the vertical farm. The facility’s design is being done in such a way that industry can test and commercialize clean technologies.

“The vertical farm will become a key resource in assisting communities across Canada in tackling issues related to food, water, air, energy, waste, and advanced design and integrative systems,” says Professor Bernie Kraatz, vice-principal research at U of T Scarborough.

“These are all key areas in understanding how to create resilient communities in the face of climate change.”

U of T Scarborough and Centennial College are actively looking to expand EaRTH, which already includes the Environmental Science and Chemistry Building (ESCB) at U of T Scarborough.

Built to the highest of sustainable building practices – including some that are innovative – ESCB houses research and teaching labs for the environmental sciences.