Oct. 17, 2013, Windsor, Ont. – The greenhouse sector was well represented at a ceremony for winners of the Premier’s Agri-food Innovation Excellence awards in the Windsor region.
Ontario is recognizing local agri-food industry innovators whose new ideas and products are creating jobs, growing local economies and bringing more Ontario food to consumers.
Among the local recipient were:
Great Northern Hydroponics – Kingsville, Essex County
If you are running a major greenhouse operation these days, you’re also running a lot of software: accounting programs, inventory tracking programs, crop management programs and more.
What if you could access all that information through a single interface? That’s the vision at Great Northern Hydroponics.
The greenhouse tomato producer has teamed up with Hortimax, a specialist in greenhouse software, to connect the different databases within its 65-acre facility.
Together they created “CombiView.” The dashboard system gives everyone from greenhouse technicians to financial clerks instant access to real-time data customized to their specific needs.
By increasing productivity and improving traceability, CombiView is giving this Ontario producer an all-important edge over its U.S. and Mexican competitors.
Mastronardi Produce/Sunset – Kingsville, Essex County
Pack your bags: we’re heading on a tomato safari! Each year, senior managers at Mastronardi Produce travel around the world in search of their next award-winning variety of tomato.
They bring back likely candidates to the company’s 7.5-acre greenhouse where more than 200 varieties are tested each year.
Since 1998, Mastronardi has been introducing new, tastier, higher-yield tomatoes to Ontario growers; varieties like succulent red-brown Kumatos, sweet golden Zimas and uniquely striped heirloom tomatoes, to name a few.
For the farmers that buy them, niche varieties spell increased profits.
Meanwhile, consumers hungry for more than beefsteak and cluster tomatoes have plenty to choose from in pretty much every shape, colour and size imaginable, all grown here in Ontario.
Savery Canada Inc. – Leamington, Essex County
Greenhouse operations could soon become a little greener, thanks to a new filter system developed by Savery Canada.
The company’s R3 Technology filter removes environmentally harmful substances from greenhouse wastewater, capturing 99 per cent of disease-causing organisms, 90 per cent of sulphates and 60 per cent of sodium.
Not only that, it recovers 90 per cent of the nutrient-rich water, which can be recycled in the greenhouse throughout the growing season.
Savery Canada is now in the final stages of testing the system, which can treat approximately 5,000 litres of wastewater an hour. Once commercial production is underway, the company expects to hire four to six more employees.
Heeman Greenhouses – Thorndale, Middlesex County
When the days get shorter and the mercury drops, customers start flocking to Heeman Greenhouses, hibiscus and oleander in tow.
The savvy greenhouse operators were the first in Ontario to offer an overwintering service for patio plants.
Many customers don’t have suitable space in their home for the plants, while others are snowbirds, heading south when winter hits. Either way, they’re happy to have experts look after the plants that will brighten their back deck come summer.
For Heeman’s, the service brings in winter revenue and creates more year-round jobs. This new energy
-efficient greenhouse creates a tropical atmosphere for the plants to grow.
And when customers return to pick up their tropical beauties in the spring, they’re often tempted to pick up a few bedding plants or perennials as well.
The Flower Ranch – Strathroy, Middlesex County
Most greenhouse operators view algae as a problem, a pesky organism that makes pathways slippery and turns walls green.
Not Melinda Rombouts and Dave Burch.
The owners of The Flower Ranch garden centre devote 20,000-square-feet of greenhouse space to cultivating the single-celled plant in specially designed bioreactors.
They sell their harvest to an impressive diversity of customers: nutraceutical producers, fish and poultry feed companies and cosmetics manufacturers.
The venture diversifies their revenue stream and keeps more of their employees working year round.
Next up, the Rombouts and Burch are aiming to produce a lipid-rich algae that could serve as a biofuel, opening up even more markets for this profitable crop.
A total of 50 regional agri-food innovation awards are being announced across the province this year. Since 2007, a total of 325 producers, processors and agri-food organizations have received a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
Ontario’s agri-food sector contributes approximately $34 billion to the province’s economy and supports more than 740,000 jobs across Ontario.
Greenhouse innovators in the Windsor region
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