The Growcer raises $3 million Series A backed by former Farm Boy Co-CEO Jeff York

Growcer develops vertical farms in modular containers to help combat food insecurity in challenging climates.

Ottawa-based The Growcer has raised $3 million CAD in Series A funding to expand the market reach of its modular vertical farms. 

Growcer said it has over 80 farms across the country growing more than 10 million servings of leafy greens annually. 

The all-equity round was co-led by building-services provider Modern Niagara, cleantech investor Jeff Westeinde, and Jeff York, the former co-CEO of Ottawa-based upscale grocery chain Farm Boy. Growcer said the investors are each bringing strategic value, such as Modern Niagara’s manufacturing capacity, York’s experience in the grocery industry, and Westeinde’s experience as a cleantech investor and sustainability engineer. 

Growcer said both York and Westeinde also participated in an earlier seed round, but declined to disclose how much funding it has raised to date. 

“We’ve found an ideal group of investment partners that understand our space, can help us drive revenue growth, and streamline our operations so that together we can help more people unlock local food year-round,” Growcer co-founder and CEO Corey Ellis said in a statement. “It’s validating to have investors who have repeatedly shown their confidence in the business.”

Growcer was founded in 2016 by Ellis and CFO Alida Burke when they were students at the University of Ottawa. Its flagship offering is a modular smart farm dubbed “Osiris,” designed and built in Canada to withstand climates from -40 C to 40 C. The startup claims that one of its farms can produce over 8,000 lbs of produce per year while using less water than conventional agriculture. 

Growcer said it has over 80 farms across the country growing more than 10 million servings of leafy greens annually with the technology. Ellis told BetaKit that the funding will allow Growcer to complete the development of its modular strawberry farm, allowing it to offer more than just leafy greens year-round. 

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Osiris also provides users with remote monitoring and control software, in-person support and training at delivery, and access to experts who can help with distribution and sales. 

Growcer appeared on a 2019 episode of CBC’s Dragon’s Den, where the founders described their goal of lowering food prices in Canada’s North, where food is often imported from southern regions and marked up as a result. The founders accepted an offer of $250,000 for 30 percent of the company from investors Arlene Dickinson and Lane Merrifield in the episode, but later decided the offer was not what they needed at the time. 

“Pitching on Dragon’s Den was an incredible opportunity and we were looking for an offer that blew us out of the water, but ultimately the offer was not a match for where we felt the company was at that time,” Ellis told BetaKit. “We bootstrapped for 6 years and focused on slower, sustainable growth before inviting in outside capital.”  

A 2020 report from the Library of Parliament found that 12.7 percent of Canadian households were considered food insecure, meaning they lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food. Comparatively, the report found that 16.9 percent, 21.6 percent, and 57 percent of households in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, respectively, faced food insecurity.

Growcer said that Ellis and Burke retained their majority stake in the company following the Series A round to ensure that the “company’s original vision and mission to bring local food and secure supply chains to all continues to guide its future.” 

Ellis told BetaKit that Growcer is establishing a fund to lower the barrier for growers to get into vertical farming and make it easier for existing growers to expand their modular farms. 

“In the future, our goal is not only for Growcer to offer the turn-key technology to grow, but to make the technology more accessible to those with a plan and passion to grow local food,” Ellis said. 

(UPDATE (05/07/2024): The article was updated with additional details and commentary from Growcer co-founder and CEO Corey Ellis. 

Feature image courtesy Growcer.

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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