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November 2, 2010  By Greenhouse Canada

Ontario greenhouse growers were again front and centre during judging in the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program.

Ontario greenhouse growers were again front and centre during judging in the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program.

There were five greenhouse growers among the 55 regional award winners across the province, each earning a cash prize of $5,000 each. From these winners, a Minister’s Award of up to $50,000 and a Premier’s Award of up to $100,000 will be selected.


The five-year, $2.5-million Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence, announced as part of the 2006 provincial budget, recognizes that farmers have always been innovative in the running of their businesses and will foster even greater innovation across the province’s agri-food sector.

“I am proud to recognize, through this special award, the farmers and producers whose vision and creativity have helped the sector to thrive,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty. “You are bringing to our agriculture industry the greatest commodities of all, innovation and leadership.”

The program “recognizes the unique and forward-thinking approach that Ontario’s farmers, agri-food business, and agri-food related organizations take to running their business now and in the future,” said Carol Mitchell, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Among the regional winners:

Rob Mastronardi and Amy Lee Butcher of Cedar Beach, with presenter MPP Bruce Crozier. (PHOTOS COURTESY OMAFRA)


Rob Mastronardi and Amy Lee Butcher have filled this 16-acre greenhouse operation with cocktail tomatoes; Roma and beefsteak tomatoes; eggplants; red, yellow and orange peppers; and mini-cucumbers, all marketed under the “Pure Flavor” brand.

They farm with pinpoint precision as a result of a traceability system that tracks not only where each vegetable came from, but who picked it, what the yield was from that, and which inputs were used to grow it. This allows Cedar Beach to trace its produce through the process, have better inventory control, and reduce its costs. The computerized system was adapted as a result of OMAFRA’s 2007-08 Traceability Project, and has given the company a strong competitive edge in the marketplace.

Local MPP Maria Van Bommel (at left), with Jack Greydanus, Jodi Roelands and Adrian Roelands of Enniskillen.


Picking a peck of bigger, better yellow peppers is more possible as a result of an innovation implemented at Adrian Roelands’ greenhouse operation in Lambton County. An ingenious system of fixed and moving wires that are high up in the greenhouse ceiling opens the canopies of individual plants, allowing better sun exposure on the peppers.

Seven of the grower’s 13 acres of greenhouse are now operating with the new system in place. An added bonus is that workers don’t have to reach as far to pick the peppers due to denser, closer rows.

Alex English and Brian Burt with MPP Lou Rinaldi.


When Brian Burt and Alex English were looking into biomass heating systems for their greenhouses, they could not find exactly what they needed, so they redesigned an existing system from the ground up.

The result is a system that features lower emissions, a byproduct that can be used to fertilize soil, and an astounding 65 per cent savings in heating costs.
Instead of using 120,000 litres of heating oil a year, the owners use 600 tons of wood construction waste, making the operation clean, green and far less expensive.

Kimberly Kroslak accepts the award on behalf of Great Northern from local MPP Bruce Crozier.


Great Northern Hydroponics has installed a natural gas-fired heat and power generator. It is efficient, saves money and is environmentally responsible – and it generates enough energy to sell 12 megawatts into the grid.

In addition to electricity production, hot water and carbon dioxide from the cogeneration facility is used by the company for heating and fertilizing crops in its 50-acre hydroponics greenhouse.

Lambton/Kent/Middlesex MPP Maria Van Bommel (at left) congratulates Mary Ann Malecki and John Malecki of J. Malecki Holdings Ltd.


John Malecki knows how to sow with precision. He designed and developed two types of automated precision seeding equipment for use by greenhouse operations that grow cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. The “muck bed seeder” is considered to be among the highest quality and most competitively priced in the market and shows promise in increasing acreage plant yield by 20 to 40 per cent. The “tray propagation seeding system” enabled a team of three people to seed 3,000 trays in a single day, a process that usually takes five people up to a week to complete. The equipment is rented out to other growers and generates 70 per cent of the farm’s income.

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