Canada’s greenhouse vegetable sector faces a great many challenges, including labour regulations and minimum wage requirements, availability of labour, and how to manage future human resource needs in conjunction with technological development.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the father of medicine, once said “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” This timeless wisdom encourages consumers to cut back on processed foods and revert to whole food diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. But to get to this point, consumers must be able to trust their food.
As a new and more ethnically diverse wave of Canadian consumers set up households, their plant purchasing habits are causing shifts in the floriculture sector.
Whether it’s fashion, food products, gardening or other aspects of life, consumer tastes change. To find out what’s hot this year, what will be in demand for the next, and most importantly, how to best sell it, we checked in with some leading experts from coast to coast.
Industry expansion south of the border seems to have slowed for some Canadian greenhouse operators, but others are still building both domestically and internationally.
Trialing new varieties can serve many purposes.Not only can they show off container and bedding performance in different climates, they can also be used to gauge public interest and identify emerging trends. This past year was no exception. The climate from June to August 2018 was warmer and drier than normal, but at the same time was plagued with random intense rain events that affected bloom performance for some of the annuals.
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.
One word to sum up the ‘state of the industry’. Precarious? Bewildering? Exciting? Such a ‘review’ is, of course, a momentary snap-shot, and no doubt by the time this is in print, things may have changed. For now however, a number of critical issues for the greenhouse industry (veg, cut flowers, bedding, nursery, potted crops) came to mind. It was a long list, so I canvassed the thoughts of BC industry leaders to identify priorities.
2018 was a year of expected – and unexpected – change. Labour and input costs continued to rise, carbon levies in the works, and the shortage of experienced labour continued. Cannabis and the renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement left large periods of uncertainty.
Rapid innovation in machinery and computer technology have lowered barriers to entry within automation. New cutting-edge tools, from robots to artificial intelligence (AI), capable of executing complex tasks are increasingly available—and affordable. Of particular significance is that fundamental components of automation technologies are now easier to customize.
Your greenhouse contains a wealth of a prized commodity that recently skyrocketed in importance—and you can’t even hold it in your hands. It’s big data, and growers should take notice.
Automation usually has to do with a single process, says Adam Greenberg, CEO of iUNU (pronounced “you-knew”), a horticultural technology startup based in Seattle, WA. “If you’re automating a planting line, you’re using a very specific automated process.” He calls it ‘non-contextual’.
When a customer walks through your garden centre, how do they decide on a fair price for a hanging basket? Do they value it more because it’s bright and colourful, because it’s in bloom, or according to its overall size?
We're now well into the season of trade shows and exhibitions - opportune to take a look at what is on offer at the 2018 ‘CanWest Hort Expo’, (Sept 26-27, Abbotsford, B.C.). This event is billed as ‘Western Canada’s premier horticultural trade show, connecting buyers and sellers throughout Canada and the Pacific Northwest’, and the organizing association (BCLNA) sure do a great job (special thanks to Karen and her team).
The next agricultural revolution is already underway, based on the Internet of Things (IoT).
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