"The consumer demand for year-round produce has fueled increase in winter production, and the projected growth rate for the next decade is 5% annually, but the surge in the price of inputs has increased the cost of production significantly", says Dr. Fadi Al-Daoud, Greenhouse Vegetable Specialist with The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs OMAFRA when discussing the status of the Canadian greenhouse industry.
Canadian Greenhouse Conference
In just one month's time, the Canadian Greenhouse Conference (CGC) will convene, bringing together more than 230 horticultural suppliers with growers from across America. "The CGC promotes the adoption of technology to make greenhouse production of all crops more efficient and sustainable," says Fadi, who also serves on the CGC's board of directors. An imperative mission given the sector's evolving challenges."
Recently, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers partnered with AIRM Consulting Ltd. to release the "Growth and Sustainability Prosperity" study for the greenhouse vegetable sector in Ontario, which was co-funded by the Government of Ontario. Canada's greenhouse sector is an important part of Canadian agriculture and a source of significant economic activity within Canada, contributing $2 billion Canadian dollars in farm gate sales. The majority of that, $1.3 billion Canadian dollars, comes from Ontario. "Over 70% of Canadian greenhouse vegetable production acres are in Ontario, with more than 32.000 jobs attributed to the greenhouse vegetable sector in Ontario", Fadi says.
The Canadian greenhouse horticultural industry has undergone rapid expansion, which, according to Fadi, can be largely attributed to advancements in supplemental lighting technologies, which have fueled winter production. "This expansion is driven by consumer demand for locally-grown vegetables and fruit year-round and supported by government support. Thanks to the emergence of greenhouse strawberry production, the crop diversification increased as well."
However, the surge in prices of inputs has increased the costs of production significantly. According to the research, operating costs grew by 11-60% between 2017-2021. Growers adapt to these increases by adopting new techniques and technologies. "In recent years, there's been an increase in adoption of automation for greenhouse environment control, pest and disease management, and packing lines," Fadi continues. "Precision agriculture technology has allowed more efficient production systems."
Addressing the need for expanded research and knowledge regarding lighting recipes for diverse greenhouse crops and general greenhouse light management, Fadi underscores the potential for these advancements to enhance productivity and enable the cultivation of a broader array of crops within greenhouses. "Technical innovations can help mitigate the carbon footprint of the greenhouse sector. Automation in harvesting technologies is also becoming an imperative requirement for growers, posed by a tightening labor market and rising labor costs."
The Canadian Greenhouse Conference will serve as a platform for in-depth discussions and presentations on these critical topics, with suppliers from around the world unveiling their latest innovations and solutions. Notably, as vertical farming gains traction as a new and growing production system in Canada, the CGC continues to support vertical farmers with dedicated programming.
The event takes place on October 4 and 5 at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in Ontario, Canada. On October 3, participants have the opportunity to partake in a Bus Tour, offering insights into the practices of successful Canadian greenhouse operators. Fadi sums it up, stating, "The CGC is a great place for growers and the industry to connect and explore the future of greenhouse cultivation."
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Canadian Greenhouse Conference