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Better protected from the unpredictability of weather, outdoor pests and contamination, indoor growing of all kinds offers more reliability and consistency that means it’s a category to last, say proponents.

There are 894 greenhouse vegetable companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to Cuesta Roble (Oak Hill) Consulting’s 2019 report, Greenhouse Vegetable Producing Companies North America. 

In 2012, there was 98 million square feet of greenhouse vegetable production in the U.S. specifically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Canada, greenhouses produced 612.8 million pounds of tomatoes in 2017, the latest number available, according to Statistics Canada. That’s more than 14 million pounds above 2016’s production level and about 35 million above 2015. 

But the typical annual 7% increase in acreage enjoyed by the 201 grower members of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association isn’t expected to continue into 2019, said Joe Sbrocchi, the association’s general manager. Ontario accounts for about 80% of the entire Canadian greenhouse output.

And it’s not just the cannabis explosion taking up space.

The whole process of expansion has gotten more complicated. There are growing uncertainties of what land municipalities will serve for greenhouse production. 

The time it takes to build a greenhouse has jumped from 24 months to 26 to 40 months, Sbrocchi said. Land purchase and building costs are rising. As demand increases, so does the demand on resources. 

“As the industry grows, that’s a concern,” he said.

“It’s like a big ball of challenges that takes longer to navigate. And with cannabis, you do have people pulling resources. And those resources can mean many things, from steel, to municipality services, to construction workers. All those things push back building and permits,” Sbrocchi said.