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Greenhouses: Demand begets opportunity

Like chefs and restaurant patrons, most shoppers are no longer satisfied with only two or three varieties of their favorite fruits and vegetables.

This seems to be especially true for the once humble tomato, which is now available in multiple sizes, shapes, and colors.

For Pure Hothouse Foods Inc. BB #:170379 of Leamington, ON, greenhouses are an excellent venue for perfecting new varieties. Currently, the grower has more than 15 varieties of tomatoes.

“There continues to be increased demand year after year for greenhouse-grown tomatoes, regardless of the season,” said chief marketing officer Chris Veillon. “Growers are after the elusive varieties that not only have a great yield, but also that unique flavor profile to separate them from the rest.”

Fiona McLean, marketing manager of Del Fresco Produce Ltd. BB #:194101 of Kingsville, ON, one of the oldest greenhouse growers in Ontario, points out that demand has expanded well beyond tomatoes, with microgreens, miniature fruit and vegetables, and smaller varietals gaining popularity.

McLean says these items are ideal for hydroponic facilities, and Del Fresco has pushed ahead with long slicing beans, baby eggplant, and miniature cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.

And while many greenhouses are built in regions where temperatures get too cold to grow and harvest crops, in Florida, where the climate means plenty of heat, greenhouses are also a hot ticket.

It turns out the Sunshine State is an excellent environment for greenhouse vegetables and herbs, and has been growing for more than 25 years.

The University of Florida/IFAS Extension reports production climbed by 17 percent in 2019 over the previous year, and growers are branching out into offerings like melons, squash, raspberries, and even edible flowers.

This is a multi-part feature adapted from the cover story of the May/June 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.