An in-depth look at Alberta's greenhouse industry

The latest Profile of the Greenhouse Industry in Alberta provides current benchmark data on greenhouse crop operations. "This report is of significance to greenhouse growers, researchers and agricultural financial institutions that rely on this information for business decisions," explains Emmanuel Anum Laate, senior crop economist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

The Economics Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in partnership with the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association gathered the data for this report through a comprehensive survey during the winter of 2019-20. It updates the 2014 profile report with 2019 data.

The report includes size, distribution in different regions within the province, heating systems, water and energy use trends, and labour. It also looks at opportunities and issues related to financing, the environment, business climate and regulation, competitiveness with imports, and other benchmarks and future trends.

"Presently, there are 195 greenhouse operations in Alberta," notes Laate. "The present size of Alberta’s greenhouse crops industry is estimated to be 404 acres, 164 hectares, 17.62 million square feet or 1.64 million square metres. Vegetable accounted for about 46% of the total greenhouse area, or 187 acres, followed by floriculture at 42%, or 170 acres, and tree seedlings at 12%, or 48 acres. Greenhouse institutional facilities of approximately 3.56 acres are not included in the total area."

The greenhouse area in the province is divided into ten regions, ranging from Region 1 which includes Fort McMurray, to Lethbridge included in Region 10.

"Compared to the 2014 survey results, the Medicine Hat region – Region 9 which includes Redcliff – continues to account for the largest percentage, 41%, of the total greenhouse area," he says. "The area under 10,000 sq. ft. has decreased from 30% in 2014 to 22% in 2019. The proportion of greenhouses with an area over 40,000 sq. ft. has increased from 32% in 2014 to 35% 2019. Double poly greenhouses accounted for about 72% of total area followed by glass at 23%."

Approximately 40% of greenhouses are year-round and 60% are seasonal in nature. The industry employed 41%, or 1,277 employees, as full-time workers and the remaining 59%, or 1,851 employees, as part-time workers. Natural gas continued to be the fuel of choice for heating greenhouses. No major shift has occurred in the use of alternate fuel like coal, wood or others.

"The report shows that the majority of growers are anticipating business threats such as higher energy costs, markets and prices, labour shortages, import competition, taxes and regulation and currency fluctuations in the next 3 to 5 years," adds Laate. "Growers indicated that in the next 3 to 5 years non-traditional products, the buy local movement, export markets, organic or green products would serve as opportunities for expansion."

Funding for the report was provided by the Governments of Canada and Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.

Source: Government of Alberta.

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