Many growers boast about their state-of-the-art greenhouses, but because it’s a competitive industry, they’re sometimes reluctant to share specifics of their proprietary methods.
Still, most are willing to talk about at least some of the advanced technology they’re using in their pursuit for ever-better production methods.
In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, Kingsville, Ontario-based Mucci Farms, uses engineered biomass pellets to heat some of its greenhouses, said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing. The project has been so successful that the company plans to move forward with it.
Mucci owns Remasco, a company that turns household waste into pellets. Remasco removes harmful substances and noncombustible materials from the garbage, then shreds, dehydrates and compresses it into pellets.
Spano said the pellets burn cleaner than oil, coal and wood. It also benefits the environment by keeping about 17 loads of garbage per day from reaching the landfill.
With natural gas prices historically low in Ontario, Mucci’s biomass pellets aren’t saving it money, but Spano said he expects the technology to pay off in the long run.
Biomass pellet costs should remain relatively stable, while it’s likely that natural gas rates will climb back up, he said.
Leamington, Ontario-based JemD Farms and its Numaran, Mexico-based partner, Agricola El Rosal SA de CV, like many growers, use technology to control the environment within their greenhouses.
JemD and its partner use automated irrigation, carbon dioxide injection and water heating technologies to maintain climate control.
"That’s exactly what ‘high-tech’ is — all of those things combined make a high-tech greenhouse," said Jim DiMenna, president of JemD.
"Controlling the climate ... sums up what ‘high technology’ is in greenhouses."
Delta, British Columbia-based Village Farms International uses its proprietary Greenhouse Advanced Technology System in its new Monahans, Texas, greenhouse.
Village Farms’ GATES greenhouses are fully enclosed and their environments are completely controlled.
Helen Aquino, marketing manager, said the new greenhouse generates electricity from wind power, recycles water up to five times, and recycles carbon dioxide. Tomatoes are grown hydroponically and using integrated pest management.
Leamington-based Nature Fresh Farms Inc.’s hydroponic facilities are highly automated, said Jay Colasanti, sales and marketing representative.
The greenhouses were modeled after European technology and were built in partnership with Nature Fresh’s sister companies South Essex Fabricating Inc. and Jevor Combustion Technologies & Services, which are owned by Nature Fresh president Peter Quiring.
Colasanti said Quiring built Nature Fresh in 1999, and since then he’s pursued improved technologies for automated cost control, crop control and varietal advancements.
Although some might think specifically of the greenhouse structure, high-tech refers to more than that.
While the structure of Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc.’s greenhouses might not change much, the growing technologies are constantly changing in the quest for better methods, said Kevin Batt, director of sales.
The majority of Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group’s greenhouses are high-tech, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director.
Growers use best growing practices in addition to the latest technology, and they look for ways to advance practices and make things more efficient in the greenhouses, on the packing line and in other parts of their operations, he said.