Making a positive impact in the world has been a constant driver for Master of Accounting student Alida Burke and it became the vision behind her business, The Growcer Inc.
Growcer works with communities across Canada to grow food locally and sustainably using ‘plug and play’ hydroponic systems that grow fresh produce from seed, without soil, in as little as six weeks.
“Our mission is to empower people to feed the world more sustainably – to make fresh food more accessible, no matter the location,” said Alida, who began her Master of Accounting (MAcc) at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business last September.
In each of their projects, the team at Growcer focuses on creating a sustainable business that can be turned over to a community and solve a particular challenge facing them – ranging from access to fresh produce to enhancing local economic development.
Alida has big dreams for the future, both personally and for her business. And achieving her CPA designation goes hand-in-hand with her plans.
“Our goal is to continue to build our business, our momentum, and grow our impact – starting in Canada and hopefully around the world.”
Furthermore, they hope to showcase the significant positive impact that can come about with the right combination of their technology, people and purpose. While, personally, Alida hopes to be able to continue putting her skills to good use and making a positive difference with everything she does.
At Growcer, Alida manages the internal operations and has already benefitted from being in the MAcc program.
“It is reinforcing the vital piece finance and accounting play in the success of a business. Specifically, I believe the managerial accounting and finance courses allow us to dive deeper into how we can leverage accounting and finance in strategic and operational decision making,” she said. “This will only further our ability to grow the internal capabilities of the company and more strategically leverage these functions for future growth.”
And with social impact emphasized in her courses at Sprott, Alida’s knowledge and skills have grown even further.
Looking back, Alida and her business partner, Corey Ellis, established their business in 2016 during their undergraduate studies. They had taken a trip to Iqaluit where they saw the challenge of food insecurity first-hand. When they returned, they did their research and discovered there were no feasible food system solutions on the market – so they decided to build one on their own.
In just a few short years, Growcer has grown speedily from two to 17 employees, with their systems supporting 20 communities across Canada. Last year, their first customer – a research centre in Churchill, Manitoba that bought their system in 2017 – crossed a milestone of 40,000 vegetables grown and distributed across their community.
Their business also got a significant boost after Alida and Corey had the opportunity to appear on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. They were successful in their pitch and left with an offer from Arlene Dickinson and Lane Merrifield.
Despite not going through with the investment in the end, the experience allowed them to showcase their business and make significant connections. And every few months when the episode re-airs, they are able to interact with new people who are also interested in their work.
“In that sense, the show has connected us with future employees, partners and communities, which has been quite a positive impact on the business.”
Reflecting on the last few years with Growcer, Alida spoke about absorbing lessons of community and collaboration with and for Indigenous Peoples, seeing the willingness of people around them to help them succeed, coming to terms with the inevitability of failure, and grabbing the opportunities for growth which come from it – all of which combined to make it all an extraordinary experience.
“It is definitely a rollercoaster ride and you can never fully expect the challenges and opportunities that will come with that. I like the word grit because I think it encapsulates that feeling of never giving up on that goal you have set for yourself and is what we had to dig into many times over the course of the past couple of years.”
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