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Take a look inside this Montreal restaurant's basement farm

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A restaurant in Montreal's Southwest borough is taking a more direct interpretation of "farm to table."

Much of the produce is grown in the basement, refurbished with cooling, lighting, and humidity systems.

"Now, we have them the whole year," said Café Monk chef and co-owner Peter Simard.

CTV News joined him as he walked through the rows of baby greens and lettuce, where he snipped herb clippings for the lunch service. Simard said his favourite herb on the farm is the basil, but thousands of plants are lining the shelves.

They call the refurbished bunker Ferme Fortuna. Co-owner Eric Pineault calls himself a "city farmer" and spends a lot of time on the farm.

"These beets want to grow big," he said, pulling a baby beet stem from the soil. "I tell them 'no,' because we are going to eat them," he added, popping the small plant into his mouth.

But they didn't just build the farm to grow tasty produce. Instead, it's part waste-cutting, part disaster-proofing.

Pineault says they started building the farm during the pandemic, when spiking produce prices were unrelenting, and the stock was unreliable.

He says sourcing food at that time was a headache and has since used the farm to supplement the menu and sell the surplus to nearby restaurants. "Be simple," he said. "It's the best way to grow."

Xiaonan Lu, a professor at McGill's Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, told CTV News that Ferme Fortuna is an excellent example of sustainable, urban farming, adding he hopes to see more farms of its kind in the city.

"Our food supply chain, from one perspective, is very fragile," he said. "It is susceptible to the climate, wars, or … transportation [problems]."

He said urban farms like Fortuna are ways to "enhance the security of the food supply to local residents." I often say, 'I'm ready for the next pandemic," said Pineault.

For a look inside the farm, watch the video report above by CTV's Luca Caruso-Moro. 

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