Greenhouse production is a critical part of Canadian agriculture, and Ontario is the heart of the industry.
Valued at more than billion dollars annually, Ontario is by far the largest producer of greenhouse vegetables in the nation, representing nearly two-thirds of total farm gate value each year.
Home to an estimated 330 greenhouse vegetable farms, Ontario continues to see unprecedented growth in protected agriculture. Founded in 1967, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) is a not-for-profit organization representing approximately 220 provincial greenhouse growers that harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
According to OGVG, member growers use the latest advances in hydroponic technology, computerized climate control, and integrated pest management to protect their bounty.
One member of OGVG, Carl Mastronardi, president and CEO of Del Fresco Produce Ltd. BB #:194101 in Kingsville, agrees: “There’s no way you’ll ever control the bugs and the diseases outside like you can inside. In greenhouses, you can put nets on the windows and keep a lot of bugs out.”
Further, he notes, “You can also use an IPM program, and it works more economically than it would outdoors.”
Mastronardi also explains how controlling the greenhouse microclimate prevents vegetables from getting too wet.
“It’s extremely difficult for a field grower to combat moisture, but it’s not difficult for a greenhouse grower. Our system will fire off a little extra heat in the morning and burn off all the humidity before it gets too wet on the plants.”
Ray Wowryk, director of business development with Nature Fresh Farms Sales Inc. BB #:274537 in Leamington, agrees that greenhouses offer greater control of the growing environment.
“Although production can be affected by the outdoor weather elements, greenhouse growers can adapt quickly to environment conditions inside or outdoors,” he said.
Additional benefits, according to Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Hothouse Foods Inc. BB #:170379 in Leamington, include the ability to plant a greater variety of products; consistency in size, quality, and flavor; and improved availability.
“Protected culture agriculture is removing the seasonality of what vegetables are grown where during which part of the year,” Veillon said.
“What it comes down to is yield and flavor—growers are looking for products that can yield a high volume per square meter; marketers are looking for unique items with a fantastic flavor profile.”
He said greenhouse growing offers both.