The Canadian greenhouse season is expected to look similar to last year, and grower-shippers say demand is growing.
"The current growing season has been excellent in both California and in British Columbia," said Aaron Quon, executive director, greenhouse category, for The Oppenheimer Group, British Columbia.
"British Columbia enjoyed a very mild winter, adding efficiency to the growing process and robustness to the plants. We anticipate volumes out of that area to be similar to last year," he said.
Other growers expect to see an increase in volume this year, but supply still may trail behind growing demand.
"More greenhouses have been built in our area, so supply will be a bit more than last year but will help shrink the gap between demand," said Jimmy Coppola, account and marketing manager, Westmoreland-TopLine Farms, Leamington, Ontario.
Demand for Mexican-grown greenhouse is also increasing, said Monique McLaws, marketing director for Nogales, Ariz.-based Del Campo Supreme.
There are nearly 50,000 acres of protected agriculture in Mexico, up about 12,350 acres from 2009," McLaws said, sourcing information from Roberta Cook"s presentation on Fresh Tomato Trends in North American Market last March 13.
"Seventy percent of those hectares are dedicated to tomatoes, mostly from Sinaloa," she said.
Greenhouse growers all agree that one major benefit is protection from unexpected weather events.
"Within a greenhouse you are, for the most part, protected from the outside environment, such as extreme drought, or extreme rainy conditions which could devastate field production. This alone helps with planning at the retail level," he said.
Matt Mastronardi, vice president of sales and marketing, Pure Hot House Foods Inc., Leamington, said retailers and club store operators are pushing more towards greenhouse grown products for the stability of supply.
"Field grown tends to fluctuate depending on the severity of the freezes and heavy rain, or whatever natural disaster that has affected growing," Mastronardi said.
Food safety, sustainability
Mitchell Amicone, salesman for The Amco Group, Leamington, Ontario, also credits growth in the industry to growing consumer awareness for how food is farmed.
"I also believe that consumers, over time, are feeling a great sense of safety understanding the food safety aspect from growing indoors as well," Mastronardi said.
"People continue to be interested in the origins of their food, how it is grown, and who is doing the growing. Greenhouse production has a great story, due to the quality that can be achieved in the enclosed environment, and the sustainable principles that can be applied," Quon said.
Ray Wowryk, director of business development, Nature Fresh Farms, Leamington, said another reason to transition to greenhouse product is that it promotes a more sustainable growing practice.
"The complete controlled environment of an enclosed greenhouse has enabled growers to become more sustainable, recycling their resources," he said, comparing the process to field grown or shade-structures that grow in the ground and lose the water they irrigate with.
"Nature Fresh recycles 100% of its water that is fed to the plants," Wowryk said.