State of the industry: Insider's perspective - Part II

February 07, 2019
Written by Gary Jones
In part I of this state-of-the-industry column, we looked at the most pressing critical issues affecting the greenhouse sector. The catastrophic effects of the ruptured gas pipeline in northern BC, continuing effects of the shift of the glasshouse landscape as it accommodates legal recreational cannabis production, labour availability, recruiting and costs, construction and planning bottlenecks, and the perennial topics of politics, globalization and international pests.
We didn’t look at the changes to drivers’ time regulations in the US and how that is affecting deliveries across the border, or a host of other issues, but it can’t all be bad news. In these interesting times, there must surely be some silver linings among the clouds.

Carbon tax: How on earth can this be a silver lining? In essence, it depends on where you live really. The disparity of tax rates to date in the provinces across Canada has seen something of a little evening out recently, but this is a complicated issue. It may be good news if you run your business in areas where you were previously considered to be somewhat disadvantaged. So, it depends on your perspective I guess.

Recruiting: Wasn’t this mentioned as a major challenge in the previous Inside View? Well, if you’re young and starting out on your horticultural journey, opportunities for new entrants to see horticulture as a rewarding career choice have never been higher, given the number of job postings seen at trade shows, in the classifieds and coming to jobs boards at schools like KPU. Job openings are diverse, interesting and available in all kinds of new disciplines (urban agriculture, high-tech growing, cannabis to name just three), and the sheer quantity is bewildering. It has to be an exciting time to start a career in horticulture.

New crops, systems: Take a look at the range of crops grown, say, just 10 years ago. Now, I challenge you to make a list of crops grown by today’s industry. Who would have predicted some of those? It therefore begs the question ‘what new crops will we be growing in another decade’s time?’ Will your company be pioneering any of these?

Adding to the range of plant species are the ‘new’ growing systems and opportunities abound. Urban agriculture, for example, is offering new opportunities, both in terms of method and location, for those wanting to produce food. Rooftops, warehouses, converted shipping containers, and even right-in-store entrepreneurs with countless new avenues to explore. Indeed, with this comes many new methods of growing, marketing and distributing food and floriculture crops.

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Retail trends: Who knows where we’ll be in just a few years’ time with regards to how we sell our products? Already, your ‘smart fridge’ can order more tomatoes and lettuce for you before you run out, and you can order groceries ‘virtually’ on your way home from work to have them delivered to your house as you get there. How will this affect how we predict what and how much we grow and how we sell it?

Globalization: We often see this as a threat from the viewpoints of competition and the rapid spread of pest and disease organisms, but as we see huge new areas of greenhouses going up in Eastern Europe, Russia, China… well, the opportunities for export of expertise and supplies, and new career openings, create a sense of ‘kid in a candy store’ for those willing and able to grasp these chances.

Final words of wisdom: Not my words. Sadly. But in chatting with a couple of (very) young greenhouse growers recently, I asked ‘what was one thing they’d learned to be able to thrive in this industry?’ One said “Learn to adapt, things change quickly!” His immediate boss, advised “Learn something new every day”1. What a great approach to the job. As we have seen, this industry can be challenging at times. But it’s also a rewarding career choice if you have the right attitude and can seize your opportunities.

  1. Peter Duong, Head Grower, Nov 2018.


Gary Jones is co-chair of Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, BC. He sits on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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