Prior to working on this May issue, I didn’t realize just how big the cut flower industry was in Canada.
According to Statistics Canada, $1.1 billion worth of greenhouse ornamentals were produced in Canada in 2016, and cut flowers were responsible for 30% of it. Not a small slice of the pie.
It’s one thing to look at numbers, but quite another to experience it. Visiting Rosa Flora’s open house a few weeks back, I witnessed what seemed like neverending rows of fresh gerbera, snapdragons, lisianthus and gerpoms – all standing perfectly, waiting for their moment at harvest.
Tabulating the results of the Grower Survey (p.g. 12), labour and energy were identified as key challenges for growers. But things really hit home after seeing Rosa Flora’s staff on the production floor and speaking with head grower Jay VanderHoeven.
Back in 2006, Rosa Flora installed a wind turbine that could generate up to 615 kW of electricity per hour, capable of providing electricity for 250 homes. But that same turbine powers just a tenth of their two million square-foot greenhouse facility. Growing in Canadian climates can be hard on growers’ wallets.
And things aren’t about to get easier. With minimum wage hikes in multiple provinces and policy changes that seem to forget the hard work and long hours needed to make greenhouse horticulture thrive, one can’t help but feel that the industry is not well understood by the public, which in turn influences policy.
As you’ll also see in this issue, the PMRA is proposing changes to pesticide use patterns for the ornamental industry. Cut flowers will be hit hardest (pg. 16), but the authors also note the incredible adaptability and resilience that growers have shown. Just look the percentage of greenhouse operations currently using biocontrols (pg. 12). Ones that have yet to adopt biocontrols are in the minority.
Shipping year-round, many growers have cut-flower growing down to an art. But relatively new pests like echinothrips can still emerge, presenting new challenges. Luckily, there are some great biocontrol options available, such as ones discussed for cut gerbera, a crop that is revered by pests and biocontrols alike (pg. 32).
For both greenhouse floriculture and vegetable growers, investing in new equipment continues into 2018. How can we afford not to? With wage hikes and slimmer margins, paying for overtime is something most can’t afford. This is where automation comes in.
Seeing food recalls from Health Canada almost every day, I thought it fitting to highlight new technology designed to improve food safety and traceability. Automated stickering of fresh produce (pg. 11) and blockchain technology (pg. 10) could help deter food-borne illnesses and facilitate fast recalls on unsafe products. Greenhouses and indoor farming facilities are ideal places for sensors, not just to track growing conditions, but to also allow feedback control of inputs such as supplemental lighting, helping to save on energy costs (pg. 20).
Whether we’re growing flowers or vegetables, we all come across similar challenges. It’s what we do in the face of them that matters.
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