Innovation is a key to the success of any business. Very few in various industries are witnessed to implement exemplary innovative ideas in the business sphere. And, one such business leader setting a benchmark through an inventive medium is Chris Hildreth.
Chris believes the astonishing distances and complex distribution systems that our food typically goes through before it reaches our plate are astounding. Triggering his entrepreneurial spirit to explore the business opportunity hidden in the loopholes of one of the largest industries; laying the foundations for TOPSOIL – Innovative Urban Agriculture INC. This innovative business venture has disrupted the traditional methods by assisting local restaurants and the surrounding community to enjoy fresh, local produce without a complex supply chain, without unnecessary pollution, and – most importantly – within hours of being harvested.
TOPSOIL was founded in 2015 with a vision to create an innovative approach to food production and to help cultivate a thriving local food system in Victoria B.C. – one that values environmental sustainability, transparency, and the local economy. Chris has a natural ability to inspire passion and enthusiasm when it comes to the benefits of local food production. His knack for bringing together people from a diverse range of disciplines and specialties has been a pillar upon which TOPSOIL is built. A pioneer of urban agriculture, Chris is breaking new ground to help build a vibrant local food economy.
He believes that the food scene in many cities around the world is now full of innovative ventures by social entrepreneurs. “Leading the way, TOPSOIL is producing large quantities of nutritious and delicious locally grown food that’s better for people and better for the planet,” he quotes. “It is how and where our TOPSOIL sites are built that matters: in cities and always in the community that they are providing for.” Its urban farms operate to eradicate a lengthy and complex supply chain, bypassing the entire industrial produce supply chain and connecting directly with the customers. “Urban agriculture is an exciting opportunity to provide food that is better for us, better for the environment, and just simply tastes better; for TOPSOIL, that’s what the eat local movement is all about” he asserts.
Since the company’s inception, Chris has had to overcome countless barriers to its current stature. “Finding a building developer to allow us to conduct our pilot project was a major barrier that took us 2 years of negotiation to overcome,” Chris mentions. “Having the city tell us that our urban agriculture pilot project was not zoned to be allowed in Victoria.” He soon decided to operate the pilot project for free to prove that urban agriculture should be part of the economic ecosystem of Victoria. The success of his pilot project was a catalyst for the city to rezone the entire city to allow commercial urban agriculture. Whereas, his final hurdle is to make the farming operation a fully-integrated, self-sufficient and modular farming unit that can be purchased by any organization, institution or individual that wants to bring food production into their community. He continues by stating that this unit will come equipped with all the necessary tools and infrastructure needed to run a successful farming operation. “The modular farming unit coupled with our proven farming system can then be replicated and scaled to any institution, community, or organization,” he further adds.
A brief note on TOPSOIL
TOPSOIL can be defined as an urban agriculture business that utilizes unused urban spaces by implementing productive farms. The most intriguing part of the model is the produce is sold directly to the surrounding restaurants and the community. Over the last 6 years, TOPSOIL has worked tirelessly to successfully prove that its modular farming system can be environmentally and socially responsible while being economically viable. It claims to be one of the only Urban agriculture businesses in the country utilizing non-arable urban land to produce food for restaurants and the surrounding community.
TOPSOIL has streamlined their production and distribution systems to allow its farms to grow 10’s of thousands of pounds of high-quality fresh local produce for over 25 restaurants and 1000’s of community members. “Growing food in the city for the city allows us to take an innovative approach to food production and provide chefs with the highest quality freshest produce while keeping our 5 principles intact,” Chris Hildreth mentions.
TOPSOIL was founded to increase and promote local food production and continues to drive that notion. It is disrupting the industry by creating a modular farming operation that can scale while taking a systematic approach to improving every aspect of their urban food system. Thus, the business was built on five guiding principles.
- To provide chefs and the community with high-quality fresh local produce while creating economic, social, and environmental benefits for the building developer and surrounding community.
- To minimize CO2 emissions associated with food transportation.
- To use zero chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.
- To eliminate one-time-use plastic packaging.
- Increase transparency – grow food in-sight in mind and provide the city with the opportunity to know exactly who, how, and where their food is coming from.
These principles have been the pillars on which TOPSOIL has built its business.
The Future depicted by Chris Hildreth
Chris Hildreth has forecasted his next 5 years in investing his energy in increasing local food production in any community by providing a fully integrated modular farming system empowering people through education, production, and employment. He highlights the major difference between TOPSOIL and a regular farm is that the farming system is modular, scalable and can be replicated in any community. Through the company, he desires to simplify the process for any individual, organization, or community to start growing food for their community. Its innovative organic growing methods produce large volumes of food in moveable geotextile containers which are easy to install, maintain, and remove (when needed). It has designed the system so that it can be easily replicated and scaled to any size, on any surface, and in any community.
Currently, he and his team are developing the modular farming system which will include modern technology to make the unit more efficient, more productive, and more environmentally sustainable in—an all-in-one system. The innovative farming system will soon be available for purchase and will come equipped with all the core components and operating systems needed for a successful farming operation. He firmly believes that the modular farming unit will be a powerful tool kit to help increase food production, food security, and economic empowerment in many other communities.