Where the climate allows, many growers have opted to use shade houses, as for these bell pepper plants in Sinaloa.
Where the climate allows, many growers have opted to use shade houses, as for these bell pepper plants in Sinaloa.

While the increase in greenhouse acreage in Mexico shows a trend toward high-tech structures, not every grower says these are the right choice. In fact, shade house acreage is growing even faster than greenhouse acreage.

Alfredo Diaz, CEO of the Culiacan-based Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture (AMHPAC), said the past couple of years have seen a tremendous trend toward shade houses.

He differentiates the two styles based on climate control.

“AMHPAC defines greenhouse production of fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and flowers as the utilization of a diverse array of technologies and advancing techniques, which are all part of protected agriculture," he said. "Since the term greenhouse has evolved in North America into a marketing term, it should be inclusive of the many technologies available to obtain a successful crop. The idea of cornering the market by limiting the term greenhouse to a unique combination of technologies only applicable to certain geographic conditions is inadequate and seriously misleading buyers and consumers alike.”

“In August 2012, the distribution between greenhouse and shade house technology of AMHPAC’s members was at a 52% to 48% ratio, where greenhouse technology had the larger percentage. By the same time in 2013 that ratio was at 46% to 54%. In August, it stands at 42% to 57%,” Diaz said.

While the shift was occurring, the protected surface acreage grew from 19,249 acres to 21,253 acres.

Diaz said he thinks there are two sides of this trend to consider.

First, lower-tech shade houses have lower startup costs and are suited well to the natural climatic conditions, allowing for big yields with minimal automation required.

However, he says there is still a place for the higher-tech structures.

“Greenhouse and high-technology styles of production haven’t lost popularity. They simply require less surface to obtain higher yields,” he said. This means that fewer greenhouse acres are needed to compete with shade house tomatoes.

“For all greenhouses or shade houses, the technology level is based on climatic needs,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

“If you’re growing in the highlands where it’s cooler, you might need more technology for heating. In a desert situation, you might need to allow heat to escape, which is a little easier with low-tech operations,” Jungmeyer said.

Jungmeyer said the quality of produce coming from each type of protected environment is similar as long as the structure is suited to the area.

Sandra Aguilar, marketing manager, Ciruli Bros. LLC, Nogales, agreed.

“Our growing methods and type of structure used are tailored to the product and weather in the growing region,” she said.