Lighting a focus of CGC’17 bus tour
By Dave Harrison
Oct. 6, 2017, Harrow and Leamington, Ont. – One of the first events of the Canadian Greenhouse Conference to sell out early is the pre-conference bus tour.
And this year was not exception. Eighty registrants – the capacity – toured a number of leading edge facilities in the Leamington region, the largest concentration of greenhouse vegetable production in North America.
And it’s also home to one of the largest, most innovative and progressive medical cannabis operations, too – Aphria.
HARROW RESEARCH CENTRE
Tour guides included Drs. Geneviève Marchard (plant pathology), Rose Labbe (entomology) and Xiuming Hao (crop physiology). With only a limited time available during the stop, their focus was on some of the supplementary lighting research with tomato, pepper and cucumber crops. The industry trend in the vegetable sector is towards year-round production and that means lighting.
Bert Mucci led attendees on a tour of the Mucci Farm’s state-of-the-heart and highly automated cucumber-packing facilities. Head cucumber grower Guy Totaro outlined the company’s cucumber crops and how they are grown, including the production under lights.
Virtually every part of the packing process has been automated, and in particular the mini-cucumber line in which robotic arms are put to good use with the sorting and packaging. There are a handful of workers on hand to ensure there are no bottlenecks.
Anna’s Flowers is a leading four-season garden centre that attracts plant enthusiasts from great distances. Led by Anna Mastronardi, who is assisted by her children Rudy, Albert and Marlene, the business has grown from humble roots in 1998 to some 30,000 square feet – quite impressive for a business that began as a roadside fruit stand.
In addition to premium plants and products geared to healthy lifestyles, it also markets a broad range of locally grown produce. It is well known for its seasonal workshops for do-it-yourselfers, with more than 100 hosted each year.
Aphria Inc. is one of Canada’s – possibly the world’s – most successful medical cannabis companies. It began operations in 2014 and was one of the first licensed companies.
Welcoming the tour was Cole Cacciavillani, Aphria’s co-founder. He is an industrial engineer with 35 years of experience in the agricultural and greenhouse industry.
It is currently 100,000 square feet, but a pair of concurrent expansion projects will expand operations to one million square feet. Its current annual production of 9,000 kilograms will grow to 100,000 kgs once the full one million square feet is in production.
The new greenhouses will incorporate the latest in automated processes involving transplanting, transporting and packaging.
It has developed its proprietary “509 Step Seed to Sale Certified” process, its commitment to protecting the health and safety of patients by ensuring it only sells clean and safe cannabis products. This process includes:
• State of the art facilities.
• Tightly controlled growing processes.
• Quality production and procedures.
• Established supply chain.
• Standard practices and training.