The adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” was definitely not written with the greenhouse sector in mind.
There aren’t too many agricultural sectors that are as driven to success via technological advances as this one. Yields are increasing every year, with no sacrifice of quality. Mechanization is increasing in all areas of production and shipping. Robotics will be commonplace within the next 10 years or so and quite probably at levels unmatched by any other farming sector.
New products are enthusiastically embraced in concert with consumer preferences. For example, how many varieties of tomatoes have been introduced over the past few years? When I started in the industry in February 1996, it was pretty much just beefsteak varieties.
The Ontario greenhouse vegetable sector earlier this year celebrated the decision by Hero Certified Burgers, a growing chain currently with 49 restaurants, to add greenhouse tomatoes to its portfolio of toppings. Sales into the foodservice sector will increase, especially with the growing “Buy Local” consumer trend.
“In a competitive market,” said Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers chair Don Taylor, “these new partnerships that expand and support our produce in the foodservice marketplace will help sustain Ontario agriculture and our Ontario greenhouse vegetable farmers.”
Ornamental retailers say consumers are constantly challenging them with the question, “what’s new?” And thankfully, the industry has responded positively with many new and improved varieties – with increased drought, disease, pest
and/or cool temperature tolerances – to make gardening less stressful and more fun.
Staying on top of things is challenging. There are periodicals, such as this one, along with conferences/trade shows that feature new research, technologies, products and trends.
Among leaders in the alternative fuels drive in Canadian agriculture is New Energy Farms in Leamington, a company with deep greenhouse roots. Natural gas prices have been low, but purpose-grown crops may be the fuel of choice for greenhouses in a few years.
Supplemental lighting research is among major topics of interest for Canadian researchers.
The goal is to help growers achieve more cost-effective, year-round production to maintain market share.
Urban farming, especially rooftop greenhouses, will be a new growth area.
The industry is continuing to evolve, largely thanks to research and innovation. Government and grower support for greenhouse research remains quite strong, and that’s to be encouraged and applauded.
So what does all this mean to you?
If you’re primarily a spring bedding plant grower, have you considered a container-based fall vegetable crop? If you’re a vegetable grower, have you thought about adding herb production, if only a row or two? If you’re a retail flower grower, why not also sell locally grown greenhouse vegetables? What about studying the green roof market as a new crop? If you’re a wholesale grower, can you see some onsite retail potential?
Why not throw a little caution to the wind in 2014?
Editorial - November 2013
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