Protected agriculture remains in growth mode - The Packer

Protected agriculture remains in growth mode

08/20/2014 09:09:00 AM
Tom Burfield

Every year, growers in Mexico, including Baja California, bring more of their tomatoes under protected agriculture — primarily shade houses — and volume of greenhouse-grown tomatoes in California also is on the rise.

The expanding greenhouse industry not only provides a year-round source for tomatoes but also provides “hundreds of jobs and innovation that’s benefiting the communities where we grow,” said Ed Beckman, chief executive officer for Certified Greenhouse Farmers, Bellevue, Wash.

This year, for the first time, San Diego-based Expo Fresh LLC will grow all of its tomatoes — round, roma, cherry and grape varieties — in shade houses in Baja California, said Bob Schachtel, sales manager.

The company gets higher yields and better quality from tomatoes grown in shade houses than with field-grown tomatoes, he said.

San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce uses a blend of field, greenhouse and shade house production for its Baja California growing operations, said John King, vice president of sales.

“We match the technology to the growing region,” he said.

About 90% of the company’s tomatoes are grown under protected agriculture.

The resulting quality, consistency and reliability “allow us to make responsible commitments to our customers,” King said.

Joe Bernardi, president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Bernardi & Associates, which has a branch in San Diego, said nearly all of the tomatoes the company receives from Baja California are greenhouse-grown.

“You get better yields, and the quality of the yields is better, so you get better packouts,” he said. “Overall, it’s just a better piece of fruit for the grower and the consumer.”

San Diego-based Pinos Produce, which sources tomatoes from Baja California, grows 100% of its vine-ripe and roma tomatoes in shade houses, said sales manager Danny Uribe.

The company has been growing in shade houses for about a decade.

Pinos was an “innovative giant” and able to see into the future when it came to realizing the value of protected agriculture, he said.

By growing in shade houses, the company gets better yields than with field-grown crops, uses less water and labor and sees better quality, he said, adding that shade houses are easier to manage and produce fruit in a lot less space than with field-grown products.

“You don’t need to have 5,000 acres,” he said, “You get tremendous yields in a protected environment.”

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