KINGSVILLE, Ontario — Even greenhouses in the sunniest spot in Canada have to supplement Mother Nature to maintain the correct growing temperatures in their facilities, but more and more are finding alternative energy sources.
Mastronardi Produce Ltd. launched a greenhouse operation in Sarnia last year under the name Envirofresh Farms.
Nancy Pickersgill, Mastronardi’s marketing coordinator, said the facility actually has a carbon-negative footprint.
The Sarnia greenhouse is near a fertilizer plant that had excess steam and carbon dioxide — two key ingredients in greenhouse operations.
Joe Sbrocchi, Mastronardi’s vice president for sales and marketing, said the produce company made a longterm deal with the plant to buy the steam and CO2.
A third-party audit confirmed that the setup results in a negative carbon footprint for the greenhouse.
Mucci Farms, has also been focusing on alternative energy for a few years.
Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing for Mucci, said the company has converted to burners that can handle anything from natural gas to oil, but they usually operate on chipped wood.
“We kept thousands of loads of demolition wood out of landfills after Hurricane Katrina because we brought it up here and burned it,” Spano said.
In 2007 Mucci formed a company, Remasco, which takes waste destined for landfills and turns it into biomass pellets, which can be burned for energy.
Bert Mucci is president of Remasco and maintains a role with Mucci Farms.
There are rigorous regulations regarding the preparation of the biomass pellets to ensure that no plastics, metals or other problematic materials are included in the pellets, which Mucci said burn cleaner than most traditional fossil fuels.
A third Kingsville greenhouse produce operation, Del Fresco Produce Ltd., is also in the alternative fuel scene.
Carl Mastronardi, president of Del Fresco, said the company’s 3,600 horsepower heaters can be fueled by a variety of substances.
They provide heat to the greenhouses through an intricate pipe system.
The pipes at floor level in the greenhouses run between rows of plants and serve not only as heating elements, but as rails to roll harvest carts on during harvest.