One of the words I heard floating around the recent Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Niagara Falls was ‘sustainability’.
It’s a word, I’m learning, growers struggle with as they navigate this constantly evolving industry. During the conference,some of us had the opportunity to tour several greenhouses in the Hamilton-Niagara area.
We learned from these growers that sustainability has become a top priority. At Sunrise Greenhouses in Lincoln, we learned of the extensive measures they’re taking to capture and reuse water to the point where head grower, Rodney Bierhuizen, says no water is wasted in their production process. At Freeman Herbs, they’re making the change to fully recyclable plant pots, in addition to trialling unique solar technology that aims to offset some of the facility’s energy consumption. At Beverley Greenhouses, we talked extensively about the technologies and techniques they’re using to reduce their footprint while remaining economically sustainable. In fact, they’ve developed an on-site breeding program of beneficial insects for pest control.
Automation also plays a role in these businesses remaining sustainable in terms of addressing labour shortages.
The tradeshow floor at the CGC was full of products aimed at improving the sustainability of greenhouse operations from not just an environmental standpoint, but also economically.
In this issue, we look at some of the research on sustainable practices and technologies that may become more commonplace in commercial greenhouses of the future. See more on Page 22.
It’s clear sustainability is the way of the future but for some, the price tag that comes with prioritizing sustainability in one’s operation is a deterrent. There are incentives and supports out there for growers but it is a daunting process researching and applying for this support.
For those feeling trepidation about taking that first step, there is a lot of help out there. Trade associations, researchers and even fellow growers who have gone down this road before can provide some valuable insights.
In the years to come, collaboration on sustainable practices is going to be the only way forward. A recent report from the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute on Canadian Agri-Food Resilience. While the report focused on agri-food supply chain disruptions, a lot of research went into understanding the fears, concerns and challenges of greenhouse vegetable growers. The report makes clear that the greenhouse sector is particularly vulnerable, on many levels, to several crises and in the future, one crisis will likely be accompanied by another. The report doesn’t intend to cause a scare but to provide a launch point for consultation and collaboration on getting out ahead of these crises.
In this issue, Dr. Rita Sterne, of the Greenhouse Technology Network, takes a closer look at the CAPI report and shares her insights on automation and how it will play a role in addressing some of the vulnerabilities noted in the report. Read more on Page 18.
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