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Visiting Dutch/Canadian companies in Niagara Region, Canada

In late September, a small delegation from the Netherlands Network in Canada and the United States visited several horticultural companies in the Niagara region of Ontario. The purpose of the visit was to meet with several Dutch/Canadian companies, a well-known research institute, and to learn about new developments in the field of floriculture and vegetable production in Canada.

Hoogendoorn America 
The delegation visited Hoogendoorn America Inc. following their tour of Meyers Fruit Farm. The Hoogendoorn America Inc. office resides in Vineland Station, which is conveniently located adjacent to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, a research facility focused on Horticulture Science and Innovation. Mr. Pieter Kwakernaak, the General Manager of Hoogendoorn America and organizer of the day’s program, provided the delegation with a short tour of their facility and explained how the surrounding area is rich in greenhouse activity and resembles the greenhouse activity that may be found in Naaldwijk. Several promotional videos showing Hoogendoorn’s footprint were shared and discussed, each explaining the vital role Hoogendoorn plays within the growing process and what is truly meant by “growth management”.

For Hoogendoorn America, “knowledge sharing and collaboration are vital to a house’s success.” In an effort to bridge the gap between the two, Hoogendoorn along with the help from the Dutch representations in Canada, have expressed interest in hosting a two-part 'Plant Empowerment' workshop series wherein growers will learn more about the growing process as a whole and to provide the interested parties with the tools and knowledge required to achieve optimal crop production while simultaneously producing high-value products (e.g. IIVO). The workshop will be held on December 2nd, 2021.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Pieter Kwakernaak

The delegation poses for a photo following their meeting at the Hoogendoorn office in Vineland Station, ON. From left to right: Stefan Theunissen, Marjan Lahuis, Pieter Kwakernaak, Henk Snoeken, Maarten ten Wolde.

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland Station, ON)
Dr. Ian Potter, the President and CEO of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre since April 2019, welcomed the delegation to the greenhouse for an in-depth look at the projects that are currently being researched/conducted. Prior to being appointed as Vineland’s CEO, Dr. Potter worked as the Vice President (Engineering) for the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and as the COO at Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF) in Edmonton, Alberta. Dr. Potter explained that Vineland’s primary focus lies in tomatoes, more specifically, “becoming the primary source of greenhouse tomato-on-the-vine genetics for Canadian growers”.

Moreover, Vineland has been researching the ways in which to increase/enhance the flavor of tomatoes, better protect tomatoes from disease(s)/pest(s), and to further examine their tolerance to light. Vineland is presently active in conducting its own predator research and understanding which pests stunt or promote tomato growth. Much of the research is driven by the need to produce a variety/strain of tomato that is resistant to ToBRFV.  

Other research being conducted at Vineland focuses on irrigation decision support systems. The bulk of this research examines data analytics, machine learning, and modeling and simulation as well as examining how AI compares/differs from human management and ensuring/monitoring that the plant/crop receives water at the most optimal time possible. New technology and reservations often go hand-in-hand with one another. Growers, although very well-informed and knowledgeable of the growing process, are not research scientists.

A vast majority of the reservations stem from feelings of no longer being in control and weary toward heavily relying on technology for peak production. Researchers at Vineland explained that “growers often have a difficult time making the switch to a fully-autonomous house, and it is important we keep them at ease by ensuring that all data is kept confidential.” It is no secret that the research being conducted at Vineland is an accurate representation of where the sector is heading toward as a whole, but not everyone is as accepting of change and the transition will take time.          

Photo courtesy of Mr. Pieter Kwakernaak

The delegation’s visit to Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. From left to right: Maarten ten Wolde, Dr. Ian Potter, Henk Snoeken, Marjan Lahuis, Stefan Theunissen.

Havecon Horticultural Projects North America (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON)
The delegation concluded their day with a final stop at Havecon Horticultural Projects North America, the Netherlands-based greenhouse builder. As is and was the case with many other businesses and companies, the pandemic presented its fair share of challenges and setbacks with regard to transportation costs and supply/labor shortages. When discussing collaborations, one of the more notable partnerships within the sector is that between Hoogendoorn America Inc. and Havecon. These two firms are actively looking to further establish their footprint within the realm of growth management, greenhouse construction, as well as additional opportunities within the North American market.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Pieter Kwakernaak.

The delegation and the Havecon team. From left to right: Maarten ten Wolde, Barbara Arsenault, Brett Jackson, Ricky Elz, Jon Adams, Henk Snoeken, Marjan Lahuis, Stefan Theunissen.

For more information:
Ministry of agriculture, nature and food quality of the Netherlands 

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