Although Del Monte Fresh Produce is increasing its footprint in Central America, the company is taking care to minimize the environmental footprint of 17 greenhouses under construction in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica.

The hydroponic greenhouses are part of a 25-acre project that also includes a packinghouse and other support facilities, according to a news release issued Oct. 4. The release followed a mid-September announcement from the Costa Rican government that Del Monte would soon begin importing fresh bell peppers to the U.S. from growing operations there.

Del Monte officials confirmed in mid-September that the imports would begin in early 2012, with the greenhouses scheduled to be completed in early December.

The Coral Gables, Fla.-based company already has greenhouses in Guatemala. In its Oct. 4 release the company said the Costa Rican facility would be very similar to the Guatemalan operation, with a few variations because of different topography.

To reduce its environmental footprint, the Costa Rican greenhouse complex will use an automatic irrigation system that will capture and recycle residual water. Internal drainage will help protect the surrounding water reservoirs and prevent greenhouse runoff. Integrated pest management will be used, including biological methods.

The company expects to begin shipping bell peppers from the new operation in February. Other greenhouse produce is planned for the operations in Guatemala and Costa Rica, but Del Monte did not provide additional details on what commodities would be shipped or when.