From Chef To Brewer & Urban Farmer: How One Entrepreneur Is Closing The Loop


Written By: Briana Zagami, Media Strategist at Agritecture

Avling Brewery is a restaurant and brewery with a rooftop farm located in Toronto. Avling approached Agritecture when they were looking to expand production of their rooftop farm and explore opportunities to integrate controlled environment agriculture. 

Max Meighan is a brewer, restaurateur, and former chef -- it is no surprise he is operating a brewery/restaurant. After speaking with Meighan, you’d assume he could add “farmer” to his list of titles, however, his knowledge of agriculture comes strictly from his experience as a chef. 

The idea for Avling Brewery came to Meighan after reading Chef Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate, and inspired the closed-loop approach to operating the brewery and kitchen. “We try as much as possible to find ways to kind of close the loop on the set of food systems, agriculture, and our supply chain both in the brewery and the kitchen,” says Meighan. 

Activities such as redirecting wastewater, kitchen waste, and growing produce hyper-locally on their rooftop are a concrete and immediate way to close a lot of those loops. Meighan explains, “There’s a lot of excess heat generated by the brewing process. We were looking for a way to use what in essence was an excess of resource (heat) and use that to extend our growing season by means of an enclosed greenhouse.” 

After realizing the unique advantages of having a rooftop farm, and wanting to set the brewery apart from others, Meighan had a desire to connect with a professional. The restaurant and craft beer market in Toronto is crowded, an impressive design goes a long way to get people interested. “Being in a city, obviously space is limited, but also a striking design and elegant execution go a long way… once you have the customer’s attention you can educate them,” he says.

Avling Brewery engaged Agritecture because they were impressed with Agritecture’s past projects, expertise in urban settings, and also the elegant look to our farm designs. “It was great to have the actual engineering behind to confirm that it would, in fact, be feasible,” said Meighan. Agritecture conducted a feasibility study for Avling Brewery, looking at the feasibility of integrating CEA systems on their existing rooftop and also the use of an anaerobic digester to manage their waste streams. Agritecture’s Lead Systems Designer, Djavid Amidi Abraham reflects on the project, “Our client came to us with an interesting vision of using waste resources from their brewery and we assisted them in exploring various equipment. At Agritecture we enjoy working with clients that prioritize sustainability. In this case, our client was seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of their products grown in a greenhouse through the innovative use of waste heat and biomass.” 

As part of this process, Agritecture researched and conducted a review of potential technology providers manufacturing anaerobic digesters to assess options available on the market. After conducting this research it was determined composting was the best method to mitigate the low volume of waste byproducts that Avling Brewery was producing. Utilizing an anaerobic digester would be more efficient for a larger waste stream. 

What’s Next For Avling Brewery? 

Avling Brewery is still planning to move forward with the farm layout and equipment suggested by Agritecture. They are also looking to expand to a second location. Their second location will primarily function as a warehouse, but the rooftop will also be utilized for events, education, and as a local food hub. The community engagement has been extremely successful at their first rooftop farm, so the second location will focus on this element and be more purpose-driven. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed this expansion, but it has also accelerated new projects and ideas. COVID-19 has shed light on the inaccuracies of how we operate as a society, we support short food supply chains and greater local small scale production. “We had planned to, throughout the year, pull together a roster of young new independent farmers and then build up a subscriber base and then launch a CSA next year,” Meighan describes.

Are you interested in prioritizing sustainability in your urban farming business? Contact Agritecture or engage one of our consultants today!


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