FROM THE EDITOR: July 2006
By Dave Harrison
Alberta’s growing influence within the Canadian greenhouse industry is about to get much larger. The province is funding a major upgrading of its research greenhouses at the Crops Diversification Centre South in Brooks.
Alberta’s growing influence within the Canadian greenhouse industry is about to get much larger. The province has long been a major producing region of both flowers and vegetables. The 2005 StatsCan survey, for example, noted total Alberta greenhouse product sales of $111-million. The province trailed only Ontario ($1.2 billion), British Columbia ($495 million), and Québec ($227 million).
Alberta is home to 345 of Canada’s 3,425 commercial growers. There are 12 million square feet of production in the province, with only Ontario (112 million), B.C. (53 million) and Québec (25 million) having larger industries.
The province is demonstrating its support to growers through a major upgrading of its research greenhouses at the Crops Diversification Centre South in Brooks. Work should be completed within about a year. The $6.6 million project will result in 55,000 square feet of research space, creating one of the largest greenhouse research facilities in North America.
“These new facilities will allow researchers at the CDCS to continue to explore new crops and crop management techniques to help Alberta producers be competitive in the global market,” said Doug Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.
The investment is long overdue. Some of the original greenhouses date back to 1965.
Greenhouse scientists at the CDCS are currently focusing on such areas as crop production technology, pest management strategies, and aquaponics – the integration of aquaculture (fish production) and hydroponics (vegetable production). Indeed, the centre is becoming a world leader in aquaponic research.
The Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, founded in 1980, is one of the most active groups of its kind in the country, hosting regular workshops and seminars, supporting research projects, and maintaining close ties with the powers that be. (Minister Horner, we’re sure, was constantly reminded by the growers of the need to modernize CDCS.)
The AGGA’s commitment to education is reflected by its plans, in conjunction with the Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association, to initiate a green trades conference this fall (Nov. 1-2 in Edmonton).
To commemorate the silver anniversary of the AGGA in 2005, a major report examined the role research, extension, technology transfer and economics information played in making the industry one of the most successful in Alberta horticulture. It was interesting to learn growers in the province have benefited from a regular newsletter from the province since 1979. There have also been more than 100 workshops hosted since then.
The comprehensive 2004 study, Reducing Energy Costs To Improve Growth Potential of the Alberta Greenhouse Industry, has become a key and timely resource, and reflects the expertise of government industry specialists.
Given today’s challenges of higher energy costs for heating and transportation, along with stalled pricing levels for most commodities, the continued viability of the greenhouse industry will increasingly depend on doing more with less, in boosting yields and reducing costs.
And that’s where research comes in. The investment in state-of-the-art research greenhouses by the Alberta government will pay significant dividends to growers in the province and across Canada, given the free flow of information within the industry.
It’s great to see government investing in agricultural infrastructure. Such announcements, unfortunately, have become much too rare.