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AGGA tour includes indoor park, urban farming


November 19, 2015
By Dave Harrison

Nov. 18, 2015, Calgary — This year’s Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association bus tour – a pre-conference tradition with the Green Industry Show and Conference – was big on innovation and marketing trends.

The conference runs Thursday and Friday at the BMO Centre. (Click on image for more information.)

BUS TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

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Sunnyside Greenhouses was established in 1918, and has become one of the largest garden centres – possibly the largest – in Alberta.

The company was founded in 1918 by Bob McCullough and was named for the community in which it was then located. In 1930, McCullough employed Jens Jensen and Neils Hansen after they emigrated from Denmark, and in 1953, Jensen gained sole ownership.

It is now a third-generation, family-owned enterprise in the Calgary community of Bowness.

In 1996, the business shifted from wholesale to retail to meet market demands. From 1978 to 1990, Sunnyside underwent massive renovation and expansion, with more recent additions in 2004 and 2013.

Sunnyside prides itself on focusing on Canadian sourced plant material from growers in British Columbia and Alberta. Some 100 tractor trailer loads are received each spring.

Employment ranges from 40 year-round employees to a high of 200 during the busy spring season.

Leading indoor potted plant crops are kalanchoes, cyclamen, mums and African violets.

Helping greet customers is Sweet Pea, a blue and gold South American macaw. She has been part of the Sunnyside family since 1985.

Next on the itinerary was a tour of the Devonian Gardens, the only indoor park operated by the city of Calgary. It’s located on the fourth floor of the downtown Core Shopping Centre.

It features 550 tropical plants strategically placed alongside walkways that meander near water fountains, over tree-decked plazas, and pass ponds teaming with fish. There is also a massive green wall.

The park welcomes up to 80,000 visitors per month and features four seasons of display material.

The tour then visited the MacLeod Trail location of Greengate Garden Centres, one of the city’s most creative retail marketers.

For many years now, it has used Bull Frog power to provide 100 per cent green power.

The location also includes an extensive Department 56 inventory of these popular holidays season collectibles, covering much of the main showroom.

The walls are colour coded to assist shoppers, and there are floor decals helping lead them to product areas.

The tour concluded with a visit to the research centre of Urban Green Produce, which is close to commercializing its urban farming systems for leafy greens.

CEO Rusty McKay said the goal is provide quality produce to consumers, “harvested today and delivered today.”

He is studying various lighting approaches with their tiered production shelves. Crops being trialled include spinach, arugula, lettuce and basil.

Urban farming has huge potential in Canada, he said. “We standing on the tip of a big iceberg…These are uncharted waters in Canada.”

Visit the website for more information on the Green Industry Show and Conference.


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