Greenhouse Canada

Passion, forward-thinking and collaboration

This year’s Top 4 under 40 winners bring all this and more to the table.

August 3, 2022  By Greenhouse Canada

Ty James

Ty James, Blaine Consulting
Nominated by: The Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture

Why should this person be considered?
“We would like to recognize Ty James for his outstanding, ongoing vital work in building a robust regional food system in the South Vancouver Island region. As an active grower, Ty understands firsthand the essential pieces of infrastructure that market growers need to get going, scale up, and make a right livelihood. What sets Ty James apart is his commitment to developing infrastructure that helps the wider food system, and in particular, help market gardeners who face similar challenges in growing their local food businesses. In a sector with very lean profit margins, Ty’s commitment to partnership and collaboration is truly inspiring.

Ever the innovator, James wanted to help build a network of local growers who could collaborate and tap into larger markets requiring GAP and HACCP certification. He wanted to design infrastructure that would give farmers affordable access to GAP and HACCP-compliant storage and processing. In 2019 he built a first prototype on his own farm, then pursued a $32,000 grant through the Canada BC Agriculture Innovation program to build additional units.


Ty’s unwavering enthusiasm and commitment to local food is inspiring. He is solution-oriented and brings a can-do attitude to everything he touches. His work ethic is phenomenal. He is articulate and passionate, and will present at local Council meetings, mentor emerging growers, or reach out with a phone call or a meeting to help move decisions along. Ty’s work is paving the way for the growth of a robust regional food system and a more collaborative food future for Southern Vancouver Island.”

Starting in the industry just six years ago, Ty began his journey by leasing a small two-acre plot. First growing salad mixes and microgreens, he quickly realized he needed more space in order to grow his business. He then leased a five-acre parcel and 20,000 square feet of greenhouse available locally. 

What motivates you to do what you do today?
Today, I am motivated by creating a truly sustainable farming industry. My operation uses natural processes daily through biodegradable/recyclable packaging materials and mulch fabrics. We use beneficial insects to target caterpillars, fungus gnats and aphids, to incorporate beneficial plants to create a habitat for beneficial insects and birds that eliminate the need for chemicals and pesticides. I see first-hand in the field how incorporating natural processes leads to better crop yields, happier customers and a more sustainable farm.

What’s the biggest challenge in your industry right now that you see as an opportunity for you?
I think plastic is the biggest challenge for the agriculture sector. For companies working in this space, I believe there are endless opportunities for innovation. Everything from mulch plastic, drip line and packaging needs to change for our industry to correct this moral dilemma. My customers are constantly telling my retail partners that this is something that they want and it is something that is constantly front of mind for me.

What’s your favourite part about your role?
My favorite part of my role is the ability to be in nature daily. I get to experience each season and gain intimate knowledge of my trade, while watching it all come to life throughout the year. I am extremely lucky to be able to do this work and feel a deep sense of responsibility for my role on the farm.

Karl Schouwenaar

Karl Schouwenaar, Orchard Park Growers
Nominated by: Connie Bradt, Managing Director of A.M.A. Horticulture Inc.

Why should this person be considered?
 “Karl Schouwenaar is a horticultural innovator and a thoughtful observer with a long-range vision for growing his family business, and the horticulture industry broadly. For Karl, it’s not just about right now – it’s about five or ten years from now. Innovating operations, cultivating leadership and defining strategic goals are part of his recipe for success. At 22, he officially joined Orchard Park Growers full-time after spending his early years playing supporting roles in the greenhouse. At 27, he’s now a partner in the family business that has grown to become North America’s go-to source for favourite specialty ornamentals, from agapanthus to gerberas to zygocactus. Successful operations are rooted in strong leadership and strategic direction. That’s why Karl has also turned his attention to supporting and cultivating leadership at all levels of the business, guided by a newly formed five-year strategy to help steer decisions from the day-to-day to the big-picture. Ongoing education and training are also vital, and Karl regularly meets with mentors and coaches on various topics including leadership development.”   

Karl grew up in the industry, living on the same property as the greenhouse. Most days off of school were spent either helping out or playing in the greenhouse. Karl says there wasn’t ever much thought of doing anything else but continuing on in the industry as he grew older. 

What motivates you to do what you do today?
Motivated to keep improving, there is always a different way of doing something, that will make things more efficient, or help improve the quality of work for our employees, and the quality of the plants. It excites me when we can make tasks around the greenhouse easier and improve the quality of the plants at the same time.  

What’s the biggest challenge in your industry right now that you see as an opportunity for you?
The biggest challenge at the moment is finding talented employees that desire to build and contribute to the industry. That has forced us to reevaluate who we are as a company with regards to our culture and core values to make Orchard Park Growers a desirable place to work for a career. 

What’s your favourite part about your role?
The favourite part about my role is coordinating between our departments to help all our plans come together. There is always a lot of work put in behind the scenes, and at the end of a growing season it is always rewarding to see the greenhouses empty out and start filling up with the next season’s crops. 

Mark Numan

Mark Numan, Colour Paradise Greenhouses
Nominated by: Jennifer Numan

Why should this person be considered?
“Mark works harder than anyone I know, he puts in very long days and is steadfastly committed to quality with extremely high standards. [2020 was his] first year working as the Grower, since the previous one left to pursue a career in the cannabis industry. Mark jumped in with both feet, and researches and reads everything he can get his hands on, soaking up everything our consultant says to him, taking meticulous notes, and of course paying very close attention to our plants and how they’re responding. He’s very humble…and committed to this business: When he was living in Alberta, he learned that his father (who owned a greenhouse with his wife) had brain cancer, and within six weeks Mark had packed up his life there and moved home to support his family through the growing season. His father, John, was the Grower in that greenhouse and passed away shortly after. Mark’s sister, the owner of another greenhouse, also found out she had cancer around the same time, and Mark joined that greenhouse to then help them out which is where he is now. (She’s recovered! That was the 2017 season). His commitment to this industry and his family working in it is tremendous, I don’t know how anyone would exemplify going above and beyond for the good of the business more than Mark has.”

Although Mark’s interest in growing didn’t come until later in life, Mark credits his father and his sister Rachel Gondosch at Westwood Greenhouses for getting him started in the industry.

What motivates you to do what you do today?
I love the challenge of learning to grow new plants, and learning to improve the varieties we already grow, seeding and propagating our own plants. I love the challenge of an ever-changing industry, and finding new ways to innovate and become more efficient to improve our operation. 

What’s the biggest challenge in your industry right now that you see as an opportunity for you?

When the pandemic began we very quickly revamped our website and set up an online store from scratch – we learned a great deal through this experience. With the ease of online shopping and the convenience we believe online is something customers will continue to desire. We plan to take steps to be able to provide that service moving forward. 

What’s your favourite part about your role?
Customer success. Customers that have success fall in love with gardening and are excited to come back year after year. We always keep this in mind with the varieties that we grow, and sending a quality plant home with them to set them up for success. 

Nikki Scott

Nikki Scott, Tolko – Reforestation division
Nominated by: Mary-Ann Fargo

Why should this person be considered?
”Nikki Scott joined Eagle Rock Division with Tolko in May of 2020 at the height the COVID pandemic. At a time when we weren’t sure if the nursery would be able to operate, Nikki stepped up and allocated as many resources as possible to mitigate the challenges and established a safe work environment for the staff. As the youngest superintendent to lead this division, Nikki has never let her age be a barrier to leading a diverse and senior demographic of employees. She dove right into the job without hesitation and earned the respect of everyone. She has faced unprecedented challenges with a high number of key employees retiring but has not missed a step in keeping the division operational and moving it forward. Nikki will jump in and help the crew in any way possible to get the job done successfully. Nikki is effective at overseeing 30+ employees during harvest season providing them with guidance and training while managing the logistics of harvesting, sorting, packaging, and transport of 7+ million tree seedlings. She leads by example every day and is prepared to admit when she has made a mistake or misstep. She puts a lot of effort into promoting the work we are all doing and tries to give meaning to each task – her passion and belief in the industry and every little seedling is contagious.”

At 7-years-old, Nikki Scott brought home a western red cedar seedling and planted it in her front yard. Three decades later that tree still stands in the same spot. But she says she owes her career in the greenhouse industry to one of her professors and mentors from Olds College, Peter Johnston-Berresford, and says the position at the University of Alberta was a catalyst for her career. 

What motivates you to do what you do today?
My greatest motivation for what I do is the hope that I can inspire individuals to care about where our food comes from, be passionate about plants and advocate for the trees of this land. I am responsible for growing the next generation of forests and that is the greatest motivation in and of itself.  

What’s the biggest challenge in your industry right now that you see as an opportunity for you?
Labour is the biggest challenge we face but it presents an opportunity for change and innovation. In seedling nursery production, the trees are ‘lifted’ or extracted from the blocks, graded, wrapped in bundles, and packed into boxes destined for cold storage until the spring planting season. This process is highly dependent on a substantial labor force for a short period of time each year and has gone unchanged for years. This has created an opportunity especially as someone new to the reforestation seedling industry to really look at different approaches and question the status quo to achieve the same outcome.  

What’s your favourite part about your role?
My favorite part of my role is the opportunities I get to provide presentations, tours, and outreach to the community. I recently hosted the Western Red Cedar Lumber Associations Cedar School group in May to advocate for the work that is being done to promote healthy forests. It’s a privilege to share my knowledge and passion for trees with others. Last year I was fortunate to deliver 300 seedlings to the students at the same school I attended 29 years ago. 

As cliché as it sounds, I really do get to do what I love every day. It’s exciting to think I may inspire even one individual to be passionate about growing plants, whether it’s the food on our plates or the trees for our forests just as I was by a little tree seedling all those years ago.

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