Protected-ag runs gamut from cloth to glass

09/23/2013 02:49:00 PM
Andy Nelson

High-tech glass may be the protected ag method of choice, but cheaper versions also remain popular in Mexico.

Alberto Maldonado, general manager of Nogales, Ariz.-based Apache Produce Co., said the trend in Mexican vegetable production continues to bend toward protected-ag.

Within protected, shade houses remain the top choice for Mexican growers, though some grower-shippers Maldonado knows of are making the switch to “real” plastic houses.

All forms of protected are seeing increases, but shade cloth is growing faster than glass or plastic, said Joe Bernardi, president of Nogales,-based brokerage Bernardi & Associates Inc.,

Affordability is the main reason, he said.

“You’re still growing in the ground, and it gives them the most flexibility.”

Shade house is definitely the most popular form of protected ag in Mexico, said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International.

“Shade house is definitely booming as it continues to prove itself up by both increasing yields and protecting the crops from pests and disease,” Aiton said.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group has bet big on glass for its Mexican greenhouse-grown vegetable programs, said Aaron Quon, the company’s greenhouse and vegetable category director.

“The overwhelming majority of Oppy greenhouse products are grown in high-tech environments,” he said.

JemD Farms, Leamington, Ontario, is adding more high-tech greenhouse acreage in Mexico every year, president Jim DiMenna said.

The marketplace is becoming more educated about the differences between high-tech glass and cheaper forms of protected ag, he said.

“We’re starting to get more traction,” he said. “People are starting to see the difference, and that’s exciting for us.”

That change in perception has many causes, DiMenna said.

For one, the company’s marketing department has done a great job getting the word out about the differences between the various forms of protected.

It also can be chalked up to consumer experience at the store level.

“People in stores are asking for our Red Sun label, and we’re really proud of that,” DiMenna said.

JemD packs its Mexican product under the Red Sun label to differentiate it from the Golden Sun label it uses for its Canadian-grown greenhouse vegetables.

The Red Sun label also will be used for product JemD packs at its new greenhouse in Virginia.

The Dublin, Va., operation, announced in March, is the company’s first greenhouse in the U.S.

The facility also has a distribution center, the company’s seventh in North America.

The $30 million, 50-acre operation is scheduled to harvest its first crop of greenhouse tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers in spring 2014.

The project is expected to create 205 jobs.



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