The Palais des congrès de Montréal expands its green roof in a renewed effort to support urban agriculture and research

le toit vert sur le Palais des congrès de Montréal vue du ciel.

After a year of renovations, the Palais des congrès de Montréal has announced the re-opening of its green roof, with a major expansion to its urban agriculture and research facilities. Boasting an impressive surface area of 35,000 sq. ft (3,250 m2), the initiative reflects the Palais’ ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable practices and a greener Montréal.

After debuting to international recognition in 2011 at the Écocité global summit, the Palais’ green roof became an important showcase and testing ground for urban agriculture in Québec in 2016, with innovative projects led by the team at the Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine (AU/LAB), including Éric Duchemin, Science Director, and Noémie Roy, Crop Manager.

Numerous improvements were made during the renovations, adding an optimised drainage system, installing a new roof lining specially designed for green roofs, and opening the site to all visitors. With an additional surface area of 15,000 sq. ft (1,400 m2) and an improved irrigation system, the green roof is now the ideal setting to host new projects and promote Montréal as a research hub for urban agriculture. It also serves as a showcase to help expand the green roof concept across Montréal and Québec.

Research and social projects

For the new green roof’s inaugural season, work has primarily focused on prepping the soil, which has been treated with green fertilizers to increase fertility and strategically irrigated via an artificial intelligence system to provide optimal growth conditions. Honey plants have also been specially planted, along with 50,000 bees from a new beehive brought in by Alvéole. This initiative not only helps protect the environment, but also provides a habitat for native insects. The honey has just been collected, and other seasonal milestones are also on the agenda, including the harvesting of more than 70 grape vines planted by Vignes en Ville, as well as the creation of Montréal’s first saffron farm in partnership with Emporium Safran Québec.

In addition to research in urban agriculture, the green roof is also home to a social project led by Éric Duchemin: a partnership with the community organization Centre social d’aide aux immigrants (CSAI) to supply vegetables from the roof to refugees at the Maison Marie-Gérin-Lajoie. Every Monday, refugees and migrants help look after the garden and pick vegetables to take with them. This initiative keeps the green roof in top condition, while also letting newcomers discover new varieties and find familiar vegetables that remind them of their native soil. It also helps them meet new people and overcome their isolation. In total, some one hundred refugees and migrants will benefit from the project this year.

For this inaugural season, AU/LAB is also offering a community garden pilot project for Palais staff. Ten plots totalling 3 m2 have been given to ten aspiring gardeners to grow their own fresh food and add some greenery to their workplace, while receiving valuable, professional advice from the AU/LAB team.

photo du toit vert sur le Palais des congrès de Montréal

Promoting Montréal as a center of urban agriculture

AU/LAB has long put a premium on international collaboration, developing partnerships with the University of Liège in Belgium and the JUNIA School of Engineering in Lille, France. The 2024 season also promises its own share of interesting experiments, including soil fertility management tests in collaboration with French company Alia-Terra (DS Instruments). Éric Duchemin hopes to implement several other research projects. Additionally, the market garden—which occupies 1,500 sq. ft (140 m2)—is expected to yield dozens of tons of fruit and vegetables bound for restaurants and condiment shelves.

By developing these ambitious projects in collaboration with AU/LAB and its various partners (including Vignes en Ville, CSAI and DS Instruments), the Palais is demonstrating its ongoing commitment to innovation, sustainability and community-building. This position fits perfectly with Montréal’s new title as the world capital of urban agriculture, given by the Office montréalais de la gastronomie in its August 24 report, La place de Montréal parmi les grandes villes d’agriculture urbaine : Une étude comparative entre dix villes au Canada, aux États-Unis et en Europe—a status largely attributable to its wide variety of social initiatives, its bustling urban farming ecosystem, and the innovative stakeholders in the city’s urban agriculture movement.


“This urban farm on the roof of the Palais des congrès de Montréal is a unique space that allows us to conduct research, experiment with new technologies and grow new vegetables. In addition to its environmental and social impact, it also helps to spotlight urban agriculture as a hallmark of Montréal cuisine, while also contributing to the city’s green transition.”  – Éric Duchemin, Science Director, Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine AU/LAB

“This renovation and expansion of the Palais’ green roof reflects our firm commitment to sustainable development and innovation. Led by the passion and dedication of Éric Duchemin and the AU/LAB team, this research space will help us cultivate a bold vision that will bolster the city’s reputation for urban agriculture, while also serving as a launch pad for social initiatives—another aspect that is particularly important to us.” – Emmanuelle Legault, President and CEO of the Palais des congrès de Montréal