Founded in 2011 by Chris Kallal, Wild + Pine is solidifying its position within Canada’s sustainability and carbon offset industry. They steward the restoration, renewal and future of the forest by growing tree seedlings year-round, utilizing advanced systems and technology to condition the seedlings to our changing climate and geographic location once out-planted. They seek to address the rising demand for tree seedlings and other biological materials in Canada and around the world.
Wild + Pine strives to revolutionize how to grow tree seedlings for reforestation, industrial land reclamation, and nature-based solutions projects to combat climate change.
“The question is, how do we really challenge those ideas and break those barriers that have limited our industry?”
In many ways, the greenhouse industry for tree seedlings has struggled to innovate. Traditional greenhouses have a large footprint with growing conditions and operating expenses that vary region to region, which presents a challenge with the significant demand increase for tree seedlings across the nation. Wild + Pine’s goal is to introduce new technologies to improve both the quality and quantity of seedlings available as these challenges are magnified annually.
Canada’s demand for tree seedlings is saturated for the foreseeable future, largely due to the devastation wrought by the mountain pine beetle and wildfire. Further, the federal governments ‘Growing Canada’s Forests’ 2 billion tree planting commitment over the next ten years to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, will elevate this demand by a staggering 40% annually. As the demand for tree seedlings exponentially rises across the nation, there is no way for private industry meet this demand for reforestation or carbon sequestration projects. Wild + Pine intends to bridge this gap and add this critical capacity to the industry.
Wild + Pine’s goal is to determine how to introduce new technologies to improve the quality and quantity of tree seedlings produced. Opposed to viewing growing operations as a greenhouse, they see their facility and others as wet warehouses that need to encourage greater efficiency and reliance on emerging technologies. Wild + Pine understands that speed and information are currencies of our era, and they want to leverage the rapidly-developing tech to anchor their industry in innovation. To do that, they have to be comfortable with discomfort, and need partnerships with companies that are flexible enough to try daring new approaches with them. Yes, these experiments or trials can result in failure, but the possible benefits are exponential.
Wild + Pine’s initial vision first started as a conventional greenhouse near the Edmonton International Airport, using conventional methodologies and growing practices. As they learned more about grow-light technology, however, they quickly realized they couldn’t succeed without embracing the latest technological advances.
Operating expenses in greenhouses, regardless of industry, often account for over 50% of a company’s annual operating expenditures. Such high expenses make it difficult to build a company with the flexibility to try new things and weather economic instability. With old technology, trying new things was looking to be very labor-intensive and costly. How can you revolutionize an industry when every change you want to make costs a fortune?
As the business founder, Chris had his hands full. He had to worry about attracting investors by maintaining a clean facility always ready for public display, while producing crops on a client-determined schedule. While he sought to innovate, he was also looking to improve business stability and reduce risk in as many areas as possible, to more comfortably tackle and test his ground-breaking ideas.
One of Wild + Pine’s most recent achievements and innovations is in their Bioprism Advanced Vertical Greenhouse (AVG), an intelligent greenhouse that can be located anywhere to grow seedlings locally where they’re needed. They seek to ultimately break the barriers to better greenhouse performance: growing environment, labour, operating expenses, and space efficiency.
G2V’s intelligent lighting technology was notably ahead of its competitors.
As well as being built from higher-efficiency LED lighting, the major benefits to Wild + Pine were complete spectral tunability, programmable light recipes and exceptional customer support. Wild + Pine could produce any spectrum required by their current crop, with the ability to mimic any solar spectrum on the planet. This allows Wild + Pine to optimize their growing environment and tailor conditions to desirable plant characteristics – all within the climate of northern Alberta, 365 days a year.
“G2V’s technology offers not only many efficiencies, but a significant differentiator in how we grow plants and trees.”
When purchasing products to outfit a greenhouse, it’s tempting to go to a large enterprise for proven, stock solutions. While you’ll get a product this way, you won’t really get much else.
G2V Optics didn’t just sell Wild + Pine a bunch of lights. They embarked on a partnership through every stage of the process: from initial exploration and design to installation and ongoing light recipe development. All throughout, Chris and the Wild + Pine team has found interactions with G2V to be easy and helpful.
The G2V team was heavily involved in the design and implementation of light recipes specific to Wild + Pine’s crops. As the business founder, who needs to wear a variety of hats and fulfill many different roles throughout his day, Chris found massive benefit in the ability to trust in G2V to manage and tailor the light for the best crop outcomes.
“G2V shouts from the mountaintops about sustainability and food security.”
Wild + Pine also connected with G2V on a philosophical level. Like G2V, they place high value in adapting to our changing world and embracing new technologies. From the outset, G2V and Wild + Pine were kindred spirits, and G2V’s care for the success of Wild + Pine was evident in its ongoing support.
On one occasion, Wild + Pine thought the lights were malfunctioning. G2V was out within the day, to investigate, even though the problem turned out to be a malfunction of one of the facility’s cameras.
All of the tech in Wild + Pine’s facility has either been developed by or supported by a local company, which has been instrumental in their success. It’s a strong example of the environment that is created by a supportive network of local companies: the ability to pick up the phone and get an answer allowed Wild + Pine to learn, progress and grow much more rapidly than they would have otherwise. While the decision to go local wasn’t predetermined from the outset, it’s one that naturally arose out of Wild + Pine’s needs and preferences. It’s a stance they now intend to keep.
Wild + Pine’s Bioprism AVG facility wasn’t optimized for rack-lighting, making the light installation one of the top three labour costs for setting up the facility. However, G2V endeavored to simplify this with magnetically-mounted attachments that made the process ten times faster than it would have been otherwise.
Wild + Pine’s greenhouse is not hidden from the world. With regular visits from external parties and investors, it was very important to have a final installed product that was clean and orderly. G2V’s lights satisfied this requirement.
“Visitors are always impressed with the lights. They look high tech and modern.”
The light recipes enabled by G2V technology not only came with unbeatable support; they were also flexible and easy to control.
In a conventional greenhouse, if you wanted to isolate growing zones to apply different light intensities or recipes, the grower would have to section off their crop with opaque dividers to ensure true isolation of the different crop zones – an incredibly labour-intensive process.
With G2V’s zone-controlled lighting, Chris could manage different light recipes in various sections of his facility without the need to install any physical separators, or go in and tune anything on the lights themselves.
Additionally, light recipes could be scheduled, which meant removing the labour cost of having a technician come in to make manual adjustments, something many other greenhouse facilities require.
For Wild + Pine’s crop of aspen, poplar and birch seedlings, they had to induce dormancy to prepare them for next season’s out-planting by reducing their photoperiod and day length. This process is difficult when managing a variety of different species, especially in a conventional greenhouse, utilizing significant labour to install dividers (installing opaque tarps or blankets on a schedule). G2V’s lighting allowed Wild + Pine the flexibility to adjust the photoperiod and schedule needed for each individual species.
Some of the initial recipes they’ve introduced include tailoring the light spectrum to mimic central Alberta during summer conditions, despite growing during the winter season, as well as changing the far red spectrum to encourage root development (as opposed to shoot and leaf development) for species challenged by drought conditions. The early results are positive; producing smaller leaf surface area in the zones with the far-red spectrum adjusted , indicating the roots are likely developing more which will allow the plant to have a higher drought tolerance once out-planted.
G2V’s lights have worked exactly as expected, with no shortcomings. Every spot check Wild + Pine does on the lights shows they’re performing as expected. Even after power outages, the lights come back on at the right intensity setting at the right period in the light recipe. Chris has had no issues with the scheduled programs he’s implemented.
G2V’s reliability and automated lighting control allowed Wild + Pine to reduce their labour costs for normal operation. As a bonus, the LED lights were even more efficient than they’d planned for, resulting in a decrease in their electrical operating costs.
When Chris put together his business plan, he’d planned for achieving 2 tree seedling harvests per year. This was a conservative estimate on his part; he’d really hoped and expected to get 3 harvests per year. His plan was already an improvement from traditional growing where only 1, maybe 2 harvests per year was possible, all depending on client start dates and species.
Chris was absolutely thrilled when, after the installation of G2V lighting, he realized the potential of a 4th harvest annually depending on species selection, a phenomenal 33% increase from his expectations and 50% increase from traditional growing.
There are a myriad of reasons why an extra harvest is game-changing for Wild + Pine.
Not only is it a significant boost to annual revenue, but it also significantly decreases the risk inherent in each crop rotation. When learning and adapting to the growth of any crop, there are going to be roadblocks. A disease might enter the facility. Equipment might malfunction. The end result is a lost crop. In a conventional greenhouse, this would mean the loss of potentially an entire year’s worth of revenue. Now, with the possibility of 4 harvests per year, a lost crop will affect the quarter but not necessarily as large a portion of the annual revenue.
By having 4 crop rotations in the same space where, conventionally, you would only have 1 crop rotation, the effective rent or lease cost for the space drops significantly.
While having more crop rotations means more fixed-costs for seeding and harvesting, it also stabilizes cash flow. Furthermore, it allows for a shifting of the company’s work paradigm to better balance work flow while creating meaningful, consistent employment.
Wild + Pine is pioneering to allow the industry to understand that it’s possible to grow trees another way, and to appreciate the gains in productivity that can be achieved. G2V has not just supplied them with a light; they’ve been essential in enabling Wild + Pine to prove their high-aiming concepts are feasible, winning over skeptics.
“What G2V’s doing is instrumental in proving the [Bioprism] concept.”
There’s a highly technical aspect to what Wild + Pine is trying to do – advanced photobiological spectral tuning and recipes – as well as a highly social and marketing side – the story of a company healing the planet through the revolution of an industry. This story needs trust backed up by solid results and a vision for not just what looks good now, but what will provide ultimate benefit to the world for decades to come.
In the end, Wild + Pine received a highly differentiated grow light with unparalleled support to develop and test groundbreaking new ways to grow better seedlings. Installation pains were mitigated through superb design, and the product’s ease of use has enabled Chris to focus his energy on other areas of his growing business. The higher light efficiencies and automation reduced labour requirements. While any change to plant growing conditions takes a fair amount of time to vet and test, early results have already shown these lights produce an extra harvest per year – a phenomenal 50% increase in output, game-changing for the industry. Being heavily aligned in environmental and forward-looking values, the yields of the partnership between Wild + Pine and G2V Optics are only going to get better.