Greenhouse Canada

Business Management
Growing in the green: Knowledge is a process…

May 13, 2011
By Melhem Sawaya


I always believe there is a better way to do things. If I am doing
something the same way, year after year, I get the feeling that I am
missing something – an improvement of some sort – with what I am doing.

I always believe there is a better way to do things. If I am doing something the same way, year after year, I get the feeling that I am missing something – an improvement of some sort – with what I am doing.

Colour groupings and displays are great ways to sell more plants.



To find that small or big factor that can improve a certain process takes the drive and the unquenched thirst for seeking knowledge, and then applying it. By no means is my drive just to change things as much as it is to find improvements.

Acquiring knowledge in performing a certain process does not mean that the old way is wrong. I will definitely not change the old method until I apply the new information and prove its advantage.


■ Whether the new information is better or not, we always learn by trying different things and, in the process, our bank account of knowledge increases.

Knowledge is one of the noble commodities that no one can take away from us. It is a treasure that proves very useful in everyday life and especially in our field of work where knowledge is the strongest commodity we can possess, as long as we apply it.

By no means am I trying to get philosophical, but the reality is that successful people are always seeking ways to improve their status. It comes down to acquiring knowledge and applying it in a prudent way.

There are many means of acquiring knowledge in our industry, but nothing can take the place of experiencing speakers in an informal setting where communication is wide open.

This is why Greenhouse Canada magazine felt so strongly about the usefulness of a Grower Day some 16 years ago that they implemented their plan to put on a day of useful, practical information that would increase our knowledge bank. Yes, some of us will acquire more from a speaker than others, but I guarantee that anyone who does not attend meetings such as Greenhouse Canada Grower Day or the Canadian Greenhouse Conference or the like will not add a thing to their bank of knowledge. In no time the bank will be overdrawn. 

In my almost 33 years in the greenhouse industry, I have seen many operations grow and flourish while some got weaker and disappeared. However, one thing I noticed very distinctly is that the owner/manager of an operation who acted like they knew it all, and didn’t thirst for new information they could apply, are not in business any more, even though they were a top grower less than 10 years ago.

The information age is changing fast and, if you don’t keep up, you will miss the boat.

Energy shade curtains are effective energy and
environment management tools.


■ Yes, this is a “commercial message” to attend the Greenhouse Canada Grower Day. I can tell you first-hand that attending any meeting such as this results in the benefits of learning from the speaker, networking among other attendees, and personal contact with an expert… all of which you can draw upon in your daily operations.

The Greenhouse Canada Grower Day is not a big money-maker. If it weren’t for the generosity of companies allowing their experts to come and share their knowledge with us, the event would not happen.

I started this event at the German Hall in Delhi, Ontario, in 1986-87 when I worked at Fernlea Flowers and then continued it with the magazine. I feel very sorry for those growers who do not understand the importance of perpetual learning as the foundation for any successful operation.

This year’s program is being held again at the Best Western Brant Park Inn in Brantford. A flower program and a vegetable program will be running concurrently.

We know the temperature, and we have a computer with which we can set the parameters.


The program, as usual, will be very informal and encourages audience questions and participation. The speakers are more than happy to answer any questions.

■ The pitfalls of biological control, with Graeme Murphy of OMAFRA: Almost every grower is using biological pest control in one form or other. Many times we think we are doing things right, but we are not getting the results we expect. The technical advisors from different companies don’t agree on the one procedure and the grower has to make a decision on which way to proceed, and sometimes it means giving up on biological control and going back to using chemicals for a time. This talk will clarify many of the pitfalls of biological control and equip you with tools so you can make the right decisions

Shading systems benefits and payback, with Kurt Parbst of Svensson: Heating is one of the main costs in greenhouse production. Many growers look for a cheaper heat source, which is fine except for the large capital costs and the unknown results. Shading systems that also include heat curtains are a practical way of:

  • Saving on heating cost.
  • Saving on cooling cost.
  • Saving on crop shrinkage.
  • Providing a better environment for growing plants.

  Veg program speakers
Greenhouse Canada editor Dave Harrison will
moderate the vegetable sessions. Speakers will include:

  • Rachel Carson of Plant Products … Crop
  • nutrition: satisfying a growing appetite.
  • David Arkell of 360 Energy … The latest in energy-saving tips.
  • Gillian Ferguson, greenhouse vegetable IPM specialist with OMAFRA … An Integrated Pest Management update.
  • Kurt Parbst of Svensson … The latest screening strategies with vegetable crops.
  • Shalin Khosla, greenhouse vegetable specialist with OMAFRA … A crop management update.
  • Dr. Barry Micallef, University of Guelph … A review of his research, which is tackling a number of key industry challenges.

This is a practical talk that will help you use your shading system more
effectively, or help you decide whether a shading system is right for
your operation or not.

Fillers for mixed containers from seed, with Jerry Gorchels of Ball Horticulture:
Mixed containers are the fastest growing item in the greenhouse sector. Non-flowering fillers are a must to make a good combination. There are many types of fillers from seed that will enhance any combination. This talk will help you produce these items and show how best to use them. It will also introduce them to you, so you can order them for your mixed containers. You can also plant them in separate pots to be sold to customers who like to make their own combinations!

Marketing in the 21st century, a panel discussion with growers and consumers: A panel of growers and garden centre operators will share how they are attracting customers and gaining their loyalty. Come prepared with your questions, share your comments and be a part of the group to find ideas that will make the pie bigger and not just allow you to have a piece of the existing pie.

Greenhouse environment manipulation, with Albert Grimm of Jeffery’s Greenhouses: We heat greenhouses, we cool them, and we install environmental computers. Albert will share with you some of the principles and ideas that work for him. Applying some of these ideas in your operation could lead to a better product at a better cost.

Perennials for bedding plant growers, with Jim Nau of Ball Horticulture: Many stores are reducing the number of suppliers, and at the same time asking – or, more likely, forcing – suppliers to work with many different products that they never grew before. Perennials are among these items. Jim is going to share many ideas on how perennials are the same as well are different from bedding plants. This will be information from a person who knows perennials inside and out.

We look forward to seeing you on June 17 in Brantford. ■

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome, please e-mail:, or visit or .

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