The greenhouses were much bigger there, the research far more advanced and the yields were setting the bar for the rest of the world. Canadian growers would routinely schedule trips and tours to check out the latest and greatest the European industry had to offer, and justifiably so. Europe was at the leading edge, and Canada was playing catch-up.
But not any more. Today it’s virtually a level playing field in terms of yields, levels of automation and research. Canadian greenhouses are incorporating the very latest in technologies and growing the newest varieties and crops.
Canadian greenhouse research is certainly on par with any other region, and that’s been a huge factor in the growth and strength of the industry. To illustrate the point, let’s look at one major hub of research.
My first visit to the Harrow Research and Development Centre (then called the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre) was in the early spring (possibly late winter) of 1996. (I had only been with the magazine a few months at that time.) The open house that I and 45 growers attended was the subject of a three-page feature in our June edition that year, with the headline, “Vegetable research focus sharpened.”
The Harrow greenhouse program that year had grown by 80 per cent over 1995, with 18 people working on greenhouse vegetable research up from 10 the previous year. Some of the projects featured during that open house included:
- Determining the population densities of western flower thrips required to cause economic damage to cucumbers.
- Photosynthetic productivity responses to various environmental conditions and nutrient supply.
- Trials of fungicides for their effects on tomato powdery mildew.
- A study of bacterial canker and NFT systems.
- A study to determine where on tomato packing lines bruising occurs, how it can be minimized and what corrective measures can be undertaken.
But there is a larger take-away message, and that’s the close relationship the centre has with growers. Industry input and feedback is highly valued. Common problems identified in commercial greenhouses are very soon the focus of multi-disciplinary research. It’s a true teamwork
approach, both from inside and from outside the centre.
Much of the seed funding for the research comes from the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. Matching grants from senior levels of government can then be accessed.
The Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector has enjoyed significant growth in size and sales over the years. Other greenhouse regions across the globe now look up to Canada as a world leader.