Greenhouse Canada

Canadian Greenhouse Conference: Beyond 2020

September 8, 2020  By Glenna Cairnie

After 40 years of conferences, one would think we had seen it all but a pandemic shutting down business and events around the world? “Unexpected” is an understatement. Over the past months, we have witnessed remarkable adaptations as people and industry have had to navigate new territory in every facet of their lives. The importance of technology became even more significant as traditional interactions were restricted.

The Canadian Greenhouse Conference, too, has adapted and embraced technology to fulfill its mandate. The fun and energy of the physical conference will be missed this year, but the CGC has prepared an excellent virtual speaker program and maintained important conference components to support growers and the sector.

The 2020 program, consisting of four webinars over two days, will highlight new ideas, methods, and research with an accomplished line-up of speakers. Live presentations will allow for audience interaction and questions. The webinars will be recorded, and registration allows for post-show access to these recordings for a limited time.


The conference theme, “Beyond 2020” was developed long before COVID-19 came on the scene but as we enter the last half of 2020, it is all the more appropriate as we look forward to better days ahead and embrace the lessons learned and ideas created.


Wednesday morning kicks off the 2020 Canadian Greenhouse Conference with a focus on lighting.

Xiuming Hao (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) launches the program, updating growers on his ground-breaking LED lighting research. While it is economically advantageous to use long photoperiod, low-intensity lighting, it has been found that lighting longer than 17 hours can cause significant injury to greenhouse fruit vegetable. Hao will discuss newly developed LED lighting strategies which allow for injury-free production of greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers with 24-h (continuous) lighting. These strategies also have a great potential to reduce peak power demand and electricity costs, in addition to the benefits of reducing light fixture capital costs, light pollution, and improving energy efficiency in year-round greenhouse vegetable production.

David Llewellyn (University of Guelph) will present results of a recent trial that tested whether supplemental lighting with similar end-of-day (EOD) spectrum treatments could influence flowering in greenhouse-grown potted floriculture crops from different photoperiod response groups. Common crops including chrysanthemum (short day), geranium (day neutral), gerbera (facultative short day) and calibrachoa (long day) were tested. Discover the commercial implications of this research and related trials from the University of Guelph.

We know light is important to arthropods, such as when moths are drawn to flames. But how important is it really to greenhouse pest management?

Canada’s northerly latitude means that less than half of the solar radiation reaching crops at the peak of summer is delivered in the depths of winter. This difference has clear implications for greenhouse crop production and, along with the increasing number of vertical farms, is one of the main drivers of today’s use of HPS and LED lights for protected crop production. Despite this, little research to date has systematically examined how these new light environments can impact greenhouse crop protection – both the good bugs and the bad. We know light is important to arthropods, such as when moths are drawn to flames. But how important is it really to greenhouse pest management? In this session, Rose Labbé, (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) will discuss how light quality, quantity and duration can all affect individual insects as well as their populations and sometimes tip the balance towards achieving successful greenhouse pest management.

Wednesday afternoon speakers turn the attention to crop protection. Biosecurity specialist, Dave Van Walleghem (Vetoquinol Canada) is emphatic that proper cleaning and disinfecting between crops is vital; allowing the new crop to save their resources for growth rather than challenging previous pathogens. Don’t miss this opportunity to find out how cleanliness has a measurable payback.

Vojislava (Vava) Grbic and her Western University team are working on developing a commercially viable Integrated Pest Management Response Service (IPM-RS) to help growers improve pesticide selection, reduce sprays, save money, and reduce worker and environmental exposure. Grbic will present strategies and current progress and will identify specific needs, support roles for IPM specialists and individual growers to help create sustainable, secure, environmentally friendly, and economically competitive greenhouse production.

Issues surrounding workplace safety and seasonal worker housing were front and centre in Ontario this summer. The contagious COVID-19 virus revealed systematic issues that caused great concern in the industry, the public and government. Justine Taylor (Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers) has worked closely with all stakeholders in developing policy to protect the health and well-being of greenhouse workers. Taylor shares best practices that have proven to be successful for both employers and employees.



Our collective experience over the last few months has provided evidence as to how quickly businesses (and conferences!) can adapt to a virtual world. The public learned very quickly to use online platforms and apps to ensure their needs were met, and the average person’s comfort level with the use of technology increased greatly over a short period of time. This is good news for our sector which will require heightened use and acceptance of technology from workers and customers to achieve success. You will find innovation and inspiration with Thursday’s series of presentations as advances in artificial intelligence (AI) hold the promise of the future.

Can AI help cultivate cherry tomatoes in a greenhouse?

The growing world population needs access to safe and healthy food. Protected agriculture can provide a large portion of this increasing demand. Greenhouse acreage is growing, but there is a shortage of qualified workers to manage these farms. Projections indicate that this issue will become more of a problem in the next five to 10 years. While smart algorithms can provide solid solutions to this issue, their implementation demands a shift of minds and social innovation. Has the pandemic prepared us for this advanced technology? Are we ready for a new era in food production?

Ron Hoek (Blue Radix) explains how algorithms and smart data can provide growers with a “digital brain”. Not only can this brain optimize climate, irrigation and energy in the greenhouse, but it can actually steer these installations. Find out AI’s potential for your greenhouse, how it can impact your day-to-day tasks and bring value to your operation.

Can AI help cultivate cherry tomatoes in a greenhouse? This challenge was faced by the international teams that participated in the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge hosted by Wageningen University & Research and Tencent. An ever-growing world population has given rise to an increased demand for fresh and healthy food. Greenhouse horticulture will need to make increased use of technology to meet the demands of production while challenged with a lack of skilled workers. Silke Hemming (WUR) reports on the outcomes of the 2019/2020 Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge, the advances realized and how artificial intelligence may hold the answer to feeding a hungry world. According to the World Bank, agriculture accounts on average for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals globally. The FAO projects that irrigated food production will increase by more than 50 percent by 2050.1 Today over 240 hours/acre/year is spent on irrigation by growers that is not data driven or coordinated. This traditional approach results in inconsistent application due to the human element: different staff with different habits. This results in poor application, the wasting of resources and increased labour costs for training and retraining. Since most greenhouses already use a climate computer to monitor temperature, the opportunity to automate this process is already within reach. A collaboration between Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and LetsGrow. com has led to the development of just such automation. LetsGrow’s world-leading AI data platform provides growers with a holistic view of their greenhouse through data generated from the greenhouse and based on plant physiology. Vineland’s decision-making software integrated into LetsGrow’s data platform will provide irrigation advice through the use of machine learning. Hussam Haroun (Vineland Research & Innovation Centre) and Ton van Dijk (LetsGrow) will walk you through the development and benefits of the new platform.

Greenhouse strawberry production around the world has increased as the demand for high quality, high flavour and low pesticide strawberries continues to grow. Growing greenhouse crops is a complex task as all aspects of production (light, temperature, water and humidity, air movements, etc.) and their interactions must be considered. If the greenhouse is too hot, what is the best way to cool it without impacting all the other factors such as plant growth and water use? Luis Trujillo (Hoogendoorn) will talk about strawberry production using the basic principles of plant empowerment to efficiently produce highly flavoured berries.

Selecting the ideal substrate for your cannabis production and managing it correctly can be very challenging. Pierre-Marc de Champlain (Berger) will help growers understand the role of each component that can be included in your growing mix and the factors that will influence your decisions throughout the production process.


In addition to the virtual speakers program, two important components of the CGC have been maintained and moved to our website.

The very popular Research Updates session has been converted to a Poster Session featuring a diverse selection of research projects, authored by both established and student researchers. Sponsored by the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, the posters will be displayed on the CGC website and available for viewing at your convenience.

A New Variety Showcase will feature videos and information from breeders promoting their latest cultivars. This new feature will provide centralized, curated content for growers to access throughout the season. Thank you to our showcase sponsors: Ball Seed, Dümmen Orange, Syngenta Flowers, Enza Zaden, Rijk Zwaan and Syngenta Seeds for making this idea a reality.

On the subject of sponsors, a special thanks to all the 2020 sponsors who recognize the value of the CGC and its grower community with continued financial support. Sponsor funding is integral to the success of the conference, and the CGC is proud to partner with these companies to support Canadian growers and the industry as a whole.

There is no doubt that technology is changing how we interact, learn and work.


There is no doubt that technology is changing how we interact, learn and work. Each year sees a progression and it is exciting to be part of an industry that is at the forefront of change. In addition to its importance in the scientific arena, horticulture is unique as it provides for two vastly different, yet valuable, human needs: sustenance for our bodies (food) and sustenance for our souls (beauty). In this unparalleled year, let us celebrate the innovation that keeps this sector moving forward and pause to reflect on the beauty it bestows.

For more, check out the CGC preview section in September’s Greenhouse Canada: 

Glenna Cairnie is the program, marketing and event coordinator for the Canadian Greenhouse Conference.

Print this page


Stories continue below