Awards

Nominated

Small Business BC Awards
Best Community Impact category
Best Youth Entrepreneur category

Winner

Greater Victoria Business Awards
Sustainable Business Practices category

Winner

Vancouver Island EcoStar Awards
Local Food category

Top 10 to watch

Douglas Magazine

Finalist

Foodie of the Year Awards
Western Living Magazine

Winner

Vancouver Island EcoStar Awards
Food Security category

TOPSOIL video profile for
2020 Greater Victoria Business Awards

Press & Media

While COVID caused more people to start cultivating their backyards and hustling down to the local farmers market with their wicker baskets, the numbers still paint a contrasting picture: Vancouver Island has drifted far from food sustainability and security.

Not long ago, the Island was surprisingly food self-sufficient—by some estimates, as recently as the 1950s, Island farmers supplied 85% of our food needs, though that percentage has been disputed. What’s not in dispute is that nowadays, more than 90% of our food comes from somewhere else.

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“For Hildreth, the silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is a sharpened public focus on food, where it comes from, and how it’s grown.”

WhenChris Hildreth began his academic pursuits at the University of Victoria, he had a plan. Working toward a minor in business and a double major in environmental studies and sociology, his goal was to lay the groundwork for a future sustainable business.

… Chris believes what became our norm; fast food, TV dinners, supermarket chains, chemical warfare companies turning to agriculture, fertilizers and pesticide production, while excellent at producing food in volume, has created a subpar food supply.

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“With the entire infrastructure for a 20,000 square foot TOPSOIL site able to fit into a twenty foot shipping container and sent to any city, the possibilities appear vast.”

Growing the next generation of local food leaders

TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, 2020

A partnership between LifeCycles Project Society, TOPSOIL Innovative Urban Agriculture and the Greater Victoria School District, Seed the City received a grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation to launch a micro-farming pilot program for grades 9-12 students at Reynolds Secondary School.

Using TOPSOIL’s modular urban farming model, students produced enough greens this past fall to feed 120 people every week for 10 weeks. To date, they have grown 575 lbs of greens, equal to 3400 servings for the school’s weekly salad bar program.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in B.C. and around the world, but some people are more affected than others.

For a Victoria business used to selling vegetables to restaurants, making ends meet during the pandemic – with many usual customers closed or doing decreased take-out business – is a particular challenge.

That’s why Topsoil, an urban agriculture company that grows produce in underutilized urban space around Greater Victoria, has expanded its farm market this year.

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As more restaurants have highlighted locally-grown food on their menus, small-scale farmers have made supplying these restaurants a key part of their business plans. Now that COVID-19 public health orders have closed most restaurants, these farmers — and their food — have been left in the lurch.

For Chris Hildreth of Topsoil, a modular urban farm at Victoria’s Dockside Green, situated close to the shoreline near the city’s Inner Harbour, that means a sudden loss of 20 restaurant contracts, or about 70 per cent of his usual business.

… If COVID-19 kills the market for what he’s grown, says Topsoil’s Chris Hildreth, ‘we’ll give it away. People are really going to be struggling, and we want to be able to help them.’

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A movable urban farm

BC Farms and Food, 2018

On a vacant gravel building site in the heart of Victoria, Topsoil, a movable urban farm, shows what innovation can do. Looking out at the empty rooftops one day in 2013, Chris Hildreth, founder of Topsoil Innovative Urban Agriculture, had an inspiration.

… Hildreth realized, to make an urban farm profitable, it would need to be lean, ingenious and adaptable. In practical terms, this would mean having negligible costs for land, low overhead with little infrastructure, a guaranteed market for produce, and the flexibility to grow and move to a new site whenever needed.

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Innovative urban agriculture in Victoria – with Chris Hildreth

GreenPlanet BluePlanet podcast episode 043, 2018

Julian Guderley interviews TOPSOIL founder Chris Hildreth

Chris is a young social entrepreneur taking a systematic approach to help increase local food production in the heart of the Victoria. His vision for TOPSOIL is to improve every aspect of our current industrialized food system from production, packaging, transportation, distribution and waste.

visit podcast website

TOPSOIL

Food Eco-District, 2018

One of Victoria’s first farm-to-table urban agricultural businesses, TOPSOIL began with a pilot garden project back in 2015; Hildreth installed 50 containers on a rooftop at the Fort Commons to grow food for local restaurants nearby.

This year, they have converted 20,000 square feet of underutilized urban space at Dockside Green into a productive food growing area

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On a warm and starry August evening, a new Victoria business was born. The new venture called The Long Table Series has been conceived by owners Alana Day and Michelin star trained chef James Day. The ongoing series of dinners are anchored by stunning three 8′ by 3′ tables made from a second growth, red cedar Vancouver Island tree which is put together to create one very long table.  These tables will be brought to local farms and unique settings on the island to host intimate dinners of up to 20 people. Says Alana, “We want to connect our guests with the food they are eating and where it comes from, picking the product and cooking it right in front of them.”

The inaugural dinner was held at Topsoil Farm at Dockside Green off the Galloping Goose Regional Trail in Vic West. Gathered guests enjoyed cocktails by Victoria Distillers before dinner and well-paired Siegerrebe and Pinot Noir wines from Blue Grouse Estate Winery throughout dinner.

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A Victoria food producer is expanding its operation at Dockside Green after growing more than 7,000 pounds of produce last year.

Topsoil’s new space includes 15,000 square feet to grow fresh produce and offers more sun exposure. The urban farm hopes to grow more than 10,000 pounds of produce in 2017.

The founder of the business says the open site allows them to operate in full transparency.

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Urban farmer Chris Hildreth is setting out 2,400 pots on vacant land at Dockside Green to supply three nearby restaurants with a range of freshly picked produce in the coming months.

He’ll be planting soon, hoping to begin delivering food late next month and carry on through to winter. “My focus is cities and I think that cities need to become more sustainable,” Hildreth, CEO of Topsoil, said Friday.

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Urban farming on a rooftop near you

Douglas Magazine, 2015

Chris Hildreth has been literally planting the seeds for a new business – an urban rooftop farm – for the past two years. Douglas caught up with Hildreth and his business mentor Kimball Ketsa as they near the end of their business pilot and begin to prepare for new growth.

… “If we’re going to live in cities, we have to make a more sustainable food system. My passion is to create a tangible solution,” says Hildreth, a Vancouver native who has a decade of restaurant industry experience.

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Sustainability is the new normal

eatmagazine.ca, 2015

It’s been 10 years since the Vancouver Aquarium launched its Ocean Wise campaign, a program to help consumers identify sustainable sources of seafood, and the retailers and restaurants that sell it.

Chef Kunal Ghose was one of the early adopters, opening the legendary Red Fish, Blue Fish and serving sustainable seafood from a repurposed shipping container along the city’s waterfront. Today, Ghose has Fishhook, another sustainable seafood spot downtown in the heart of the Blanshard corridor dining district, and he has plenty of company in the green dining scene.

… This summer, UVic grad Chris Hildreth launched Topsoil, a pilot project growing vegetables for restaurants on the roof of a downtown building. Ghose says Hildreth’s urban farm will supply Fishhook with fresh vegetables next season.

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Get in touch

Phone 250-634-3992

chris@topsoileatlocal.com

TOPSOIL operates in beautiful Victoria, Canada.
For questions or media enquiries, please drop us a line.

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