There is a relatively new movement underfoot when it comes to consumers wanting to be assured that the food they consume is safe to eat. Today’s consumer wants to know where their food was grown or produced and that it was prepared and packaged with an emphasis on safety. This focus on food safety is of the highest priority for the Trusted Freshness® brand of lettuces, micro-greens and herbs grown at Vertical Growers Network Ltd., Canada’s newest vertical farming operation located in Leduc, Alberta.
Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. Ibrahim Elserafy, VGN food safety manager, has the consumer’s health in mind at all times during the growing and distribution of Trusted Freshness produce.
“We have stringent food safety policies in place throughout the growing cycle –from seeding, germination, growing, harvest and storage,” says Elserafy. “Our staff is knowledgeable of the importance of hygiene when it comes to food handling and we have designed a number of processes that ensure the safe handling and storage of the produce we grow and distribute.”
As a vertical farming operation, where VGN grows its produce in a closed, indoor, climate-controlled environment, the company is able to mitigate food safety concerns. “We do not use any pesticides and herbicides throughout the grow cycle providing our customers with the highest quality of vertically-farmed, fresh locally-grown produce,” says Elserafy.
“We have stringent food safety policies in place throughout the growing cycle –from seeding, germination, growing, harvest and storage,” says Elserafy
The time between when Trusted Freshness produce is harvested and into the hands of the consumer at a store is as short as two to three days.
To ensure freshness, Trusted Freshness products are harvested at their juvenile stage to maximize their flavour and nutritional benefit. Currently Trusted Freshness products are Green Wave Lettuce, Bibb Lettuce, Baby Green Romaine, Genovese Basil, Thai Basil, Nutri Kale and Black Tuscan Kale.
“We will be introducing additional produce varieties under the Trusted Freshness brand in the very near future,” says Elserafy, “this includes vine crops and micro-greens, produce our customers have told us they are looking forward to receiving.”
An indication of the priority VGN places on food safety is the short time between harvesting, packaging and cooler storage. “We are able to harvest the produce, package and place it in cool storage within an hour and it is then ready to go to market,” adds Elserafy.
VGN facilities comply with Canada GAP®, Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) standards. The time between when Trusted Freshness produce is harvested and into the hands of the consumer at a store is as short as two to three days.
“This short time frame ensures consumers are able to benefit from the freshness of the produce and peak nutritional value,” says Elserafy. “This immediate availability of locally grown, fresh produce is something that consumers are looking for and our Trusted Freshness produce provides.”