Greenhouse Canada

The future is bright

October 22, 2014  By Dave Harrison

The future couldn’t look brighter for the Canadian greenhouse sector. The next generation of industry leadership is already making their mark in taking things to the next level.

From new ways of growing crops, to community involvement, to industry association work, our inaugural Top 10 Under 40 winners are themselves successful in business while helping others succeed.

The program was launched last spring, with nominations closing Aug. 29.


The awards criteria asked that nominees should:

  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic.
  • Show leadership and initiative.
  • Actively seek new opportunities for training and education.
  • Be involved in industry associations.

The calibre of nominations made the selection process most difficult. As we said in promoting the program: “Canada is full of young, skilled and knowledgeable people who are driving the greenhouse industry forward. From commercial growers and wholesalers to manufacturers, equipment suppliers and service providers, they are the best and brightest in our industry.”

As impressive as these award winners are and all that they have already accomplished, we feel they are only just getting started.

The best is yet to come.


Grower/owner of Creekside Hothouse Ltd. in Surrey, B.C.

Does the public have a good understanding of greenhouse production?

Consumers often have many misconceptions about greenhouse growing practices and the quality of food.

Cheema is helping change that. He has been a longtime advocate for greenhouse produce by hosting school, university and public tours throughout the year. He warmly welcomes farm field trips and tours from various school districts and culinary instructors. He feels it is very important for people of all ages to re-connect with their food and be aware of where it comes from and how it is produced.

Cheema is also very involved in the industry. In addition to being a director at B.C. Hot House, he is vice-chair of the B.C. Greenhouse Growers Association and a director on the board of the B.C. Young Farmers Association. He is also a member of the Canadian Young Farmers Forum and the Foreign Workers Program Council.

Most importantly, he is involved in the commun-ity. Cheema donates a portion of his eggplant sales to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, since he has two close friends touched by the disease. This donation is very important to him.

He is involved with both Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of Fraser Valley with their agriculture programs. He mentors students and allows them to complete work experience commitments in his greenhouse.

Cheema combines a search for new varieties with strict food safety measures and an integrated pest management strategy (IPM).

Being environmentally conscious is also a priority. A few of the measures he uses to reduce the farm’s effect on the environment include reusing fertilizer, collecting rainwater, utilizing heat storage tanks, and not spraying herbicides. He also uses new packaging innovations to reduce the use of plastic wraps for shipping.


Green Goods manager with Greengate Garden Centres in Calgary

Duncan started with the company as a greenhouse crew member. His enthusiasm, work ethic and expertise was soon recognized and he was eventually promoted to greenhouse manager. Here, he excelled in managing people, looking after the greenhouse, and buying for the company’s retail operations.

Recently promoted to green goods manager, he is now responsible for buying all green goods in every department, including trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, tropicals and flowering plants for one of the largest retail greenhouse operations in Calgary.

Not only does he supervise the greenhouse operations and staff, which can range up to about 100 employees in spring, but he is also responsible for plant care and quality, and at this he truly shines. This is no small feat as the company has retail sales of about
$7 million a year.

His leadership skills are evident in his ability to not only manage such a large staff, but to also buy products from a variety of suppliers in many different parts of the world.

He is the company’s “go to” horticulturist when customers bring in plant issues. He’s not only become green goods manager, but he has also assumed the duties of greenhouse manager, perennials supervisor and tree lot manager.

Duncan is a self-proclaimed plant freak. His enthusiasm for plants and growing was cultivated at a young age and his background in working at a greenhouse.

He is a regional horticultural celebrity. Local media outlets make regular use of his expertise, including CityTV, CFCN, Global, and the Calgary Herald, among others.

He is recognized as a plant and gardening expert in Calgary and does many seminars and speaking engagements for the Calgary Horticultural Society.

The company has a summer promotion with CityTV in which Duncan helps viewers with garden makeovers.


Ornamental co-ordinator with Koppert Canada, based in Niagara Falls

Hendriksen grew up in the greenhouse industry. It started when his grandfather immigrated to the Niagara region from Holland after the war, and has continued with his father, uncle and cousin all active within the greenhouse industry.

He has been around horticulture since he can remember, from helping his parents as a youngster with their landscape company, to working as a general
labourer in greenhouses as a teenager.

After high school, Hendriksen enrolled in the Greenhouse Technician program at Niagara College to further his knowledge and commitment to the greenhouse industry. He had great success in the program, graduating in 2005 with Honours, receiving the Niagara Scholar Award for his outstanding dedication and GPA.

After graduating, he became an assistant grower in the Niagara region, learning the basic fundamental tools and skills from experienced and knowledgeable industry professionals.

This skill set, along with his educational background, ensured him a position with Koppert Canada in 2009, initially as a biological systems specialist. Over the years, he has become an integral part of Koppert Canada Limited, has helped create a solid customer base in the Niagara region and is responsible for the success of ornamentals across Canada. 

Hendriksen has spent several years focusing on solving major issues in many crops but his dedication to cut gerbera has proven most important.

Adam was recently promoted to ornamental co-ordinator and his additional new duties involve him being responsible for creating and maintaining all of Koppert’s ornamental IPM protocols across Canada.

Currently, he is a member of the Program Advisory Committee for the Greenhouse Technician program at Niagara College.


Technical sales rep/technical co-ordinator with Plant Products in Leamington, Ont.

King joined Plant Products in May of 1999 following his graduation from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of science degree in Horticulture.

He had the responsibility of evaluating biocontrols at some of his customers’ greenhouses for a couple of years while the company’s IPM division was growing.

Prior to the establishment of Plant Products’ seeds division, King organized and arranged all new greenhouse vegetable variety trials for Dutch breeders.

He is the company’s liaison with Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers for registered pesticides and MRLs, and recently assisted in updating this list. He has participated in the OGVG Research Prioritization Workshop concerning new pesticide registrations.

Since 2008, he has served on the Canadian Greenhouse Conference trade show committee and has been committee chair for the last three years.

He has participated in fertilizer seminars in Israel and the Netherlands organized by major manufacturers.

He has attended seminars in climate control and diffused lighting in vegetable crops, and has taken Dale Carnegie classes in effective communications and human relations to improve his skills.

King helped design the company’s online custom fertilizer program software and how the website looks. He conducts regular quality analysis of all the company’s fertilizer ingredients, and formulates custom fertilizer recipes as required.

He recently organized the company’s plant sap analysis program and attended the corporate presentation prior to the initiation of the program.

With any new product requiring analysis, King works in conjunction with the company’s marketing and regulatory departments to determine its safety, value and benefits to our customers. He is also asked to do regular new product evaluations in commercial greenhouses.

In 2012, he completed his certification as a professional agrologist.


President/owner of Phoenix Perennials in Richmond, B.C.

The company Lewis started in 2004 has grown into one of the most talked about and innovative nurseries in the Greater Vancouver region.

The company has one of the largest selections of perennials in Canada with over 4,000 different garden plants each year.

Lewis launched a mail order service in 2012 offering hard-to-find plants to gardeners from coast to coast.

Phoenix Perennials hosts 50 different workshops, in addition to many special events. Lewis welcomes opportunities to share his passion for plants with gardeners, and has about 15 garden club and garden show speaking engagements each year.

It’s not surprising, then, that the British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association named him its Communicator of the Year in 2013. He had also been nominated for the award in 2012.

His popular talks have become regular highlights of garden group meetings throughout B.C., Washington and Oregon, and he has recently spoken in Belgium, the Netherlands and Boston.

Phoenix Perennials was the Growing Gardeners category winner for 2012 and 2013 in the Canadian Garden Centre of the Year awards competition. The awards recognized the centre’s work in in building and enhancing interest in gardening through its workshops, special events, e-newsletter, alerts and other digital content (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram).

Lewis has served on the board of directors of the Perennial Plant Association since 2009. In 2013, he helped organize the PPA Symposium in Vancouver to great critical and financial success.

He has had many TV and radio appearances and has written various articles in consumer magazines.

He has a book coming out with Timber Press – An Encyclopedia of Groundcovers. He handled all the writing and photography. The release date is tentatively scheduled for 2016.


Greenhouse operations manager with Millson Forestry Service in Timmins, Ontario

Millson graduated as a forester from Lakehead University in 2003 and returned to Timmins to work in the family’s diversified forestry silvicultural business. In 2007, she and two other young foresters bought the business.

Along with taking on the duties of running the business, Millson became the operations manager for both the tree growing and tree planting operations.

The annual production of approximately 15 million pine, spruce and fir seedlings for reforestation, Christmas trees and reclamation purposes is grown in gutter-connected greenhouses and hardened in shade houses. Some crops are overwintered outside and some in the company’s cold storage facilities.

The economic downturn 2007 to 2009 was particularly hard on the forest industry, and many tree seedling facilities in Ontario closed their doors. 

In the fall of 2010, Millson made some critical decisions with regard to her greenhouse operations.

Declining markets, decreasing prices, increased labour and supply costs had taken their toll. Taking a long-term view, she developed a plan to become proactive in bringing the tree seedling industry to the much higher cultural and technological levels found in the horticultural and agricultural greenhouse industries.

Her objective was to examine all aspects of tree seedling growing and delivery and use updated technology and cultural information to produce better seedlings and improve efficiencies in all aspects of seed usage and tree handling, growing and delivery, without increasing seedling prices. 

Working with suppliers, transplanting equipment was purchased and a transplanting line was developed with the pellet manufacturer. A new seedling package was designed in-house to allow for automation of packaging of seedlings for cold storage. Development of
species-specific nutrient regimes continued.

In 2013, her efforts were recognized with an award for innovation at the annual Northern Ontario Business Awards. Millson is truly a pioneer in modernizing tree seedling production.

Locally, she is a member of OFA and is active in agricultural events, including recently as a speaker at Cultivate’14 in Columbus, Ohio.


Plant Health Coordinator with Flowers Canada Ontario Inc., in Guelph

Andrew Morse is a young professional working to advance the Canadian floriculture sector through helping growers manage the complex regulatory frameworks associated with plant health and international trade.

In 2009, he received a master’s degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph, where he completed a research thesis examining pollination of greenhouse tomato in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers association.

Morse has been a researcher with the University of Guelph and AgCanada on a number of projects, and was a biology teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo.

As plant health and trade manager for Flowers Canada (Ontario) Inc. and Flowers Canada Growers Inc., Morse has represented growers in numerous government consultations, helped growers adapt to changing regulations, and worked to promote the growth of Canada’s floriculture sector.

He is a dedicated individual and shows an excellent understanding and sincere passion for the greenhouse floriculture industry. He has spoken to grower groups across the country and has attended numerous industry conferences.

He successfully represents the interests of greenhouse floriculture to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and has been actively involved in developing programs with the CFIA such as the Bulb Remediation Protocol to handle bulb rejections. He is always available to growers seeking assistance with import/export problems of plant material.

For the past two years, Morse has helped organize and actively participated in the highly successful grower night school courses put on at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.


Greenhouse Director and Founding Member of Lufa Farms in Montreal.

As a co-founder, Rathmell has been with Lufa Farms since the beginning and was instrumental in launching the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse. Since then, she has worked tirelessly towards its mission of growing food more sustainably in cities. She is now responsible for growing enough vegetables to feed over 4,000 Montreal families.

Rathmell manages three teams (plant science and two greenhouse operations), while overseeing R&D activities and pursuing community outreach.

She commands fierce loyalty from her teams by holding them to the same high standards she sets for herself while also offering unparalleled support and opportunities for growth. When two team members formulated a plan for composting onsite, Rathmell helped them implement it. Lufa Farms now composts green waste instead of paying to have it removed.

She has demonstrated commitment to her own professional growth. She participated in the 2014 HBS Agribusiness Seminar to learn from businesspeople with decades of experience. Last year, she visited Houweling’s, a West Coast operation that utilizes the same technology as Lufa Farms’ second greenhouse, to learn about their methods.

Colleagues say Rathmell is the driving force behind innovations at Lufa Farms. She oversaw the creation of its software suite, including a predictive analytics application for pests that allows Lufa to grow more successfully using only biological controls. She also managed the commissioning and launch of its second rooftop greenhouse, the largest of its kind. Under her watch, it has produced 30 per cent higher yields than anticipated.

She also speaks at many events, including the Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference and an upcoming seminar at Harvard Graduate School of Design.


NSERC Industrial Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph

Szucs completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario. On the basis of her grades and a strong record of performance in selected research topic courses, she was awarded a University of Guelph graduate scholarship and became the only student who entered from a B.Sc. program directly into the PhD program in the Department of Plant Agriculture.

Before completing her doctoral studies in 2013 with Professor Bernard Grodzinski, she also served as the PhD students’ representative.

She has more recently won a NSERC industrial, post-doctorate research fellowship and is currently working on improving greenhouse cultivation practices for selected pharmaceuticals crops (e.g., antibodies).

During her PhD studies, Szucs wrote a review on plant terpenes that was commissioned by Elsevier Publications, Oxford, U.K., for a new six-volume reference set entitled Comprehensive Biotechnology (2nd ed. 2011).

She is currently publishing several journal papers on her graduate studies that involved examining how greenhouse snapdragons adapt to carbon dioxide enrichment.


Co-owner/operator of Dutch Growers Home & Garden in Regina

Van Duyvendyk is a great example of a successful young garden centre owner. She is heavily involved with the industry and has a passion and energy for the industry that is never ending.

She manages the store’s marketing and advertising programs, looks after the annuals and tropicals departments, and is the buyer and merchandiser of Christmas, gift and décor departments.

She runs one of the city’s largest fashion boutiques out of the garden centre.

She chairs the pottery committee and is past-chair of the tropical plant committee for the Garden Centre Group of Canada. She is also a member of its continuing education committee. This co-op is member-driven to create strong buying programs for the group.

She is a member of the Regina Women Entrepreneurs group and the Alberta greenhouse forum.

She hosted a popular weekly TV gardening show, and also organizes numerous charity fashion shows and fundraisers.

Dutch Growers was named Business of the Year by the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce in 2008. It has also been a finalist five of the past nine years in the ABEX Awards program, sponsored by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce to honour outstanding achievements in business excellence.

Dutch Growers won the Fine Lifestyles Regina Award for Best Independent Fashion Boutique and Best Garden Centre/Greenhouse in 2012 and 2013.

Colleagues say Van Duyvendyk has the ability to empower employees and is largely responsible for the success of the business. It has more than doubled its enclosed retail shopping space and renovated every inch of the property. Sales have almost tripled over the past nine years and the customer base continues to grow.

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