Alberta commits $783,000 to improve provincial greenhouse production
By Fruit & Vegetable
By Fruit & Vegetable
Buying local has become increasingly important to Canadians. However, in a country where temperatures can stay well below zero for half of the year, and amidst increasing concerns over the impact that recent climate events will have on the agricultural sector, producers are looking for ways to grow and supply Canadians with locally sourced fresh produce throughout the year.
The Canadian greenhouse sector is the fastest-growing segment of Canadian horticulture due partly to the dedication and hard work of producers across the country. Greenhouse-grown vegetables are a billion-dollar industry in Canada; Alberta contributed approximately $118.8 million in sales in 2020, up from $55.7 million in 2016. Moreover, Alberta’s greenhouse sector is an essential driver in transitioning to energy-efficient sustainable agricultural production.
Recognizing that current demand for fresh, locally grown produce far outstrips the available supply in a market reliant on Mexican and U.S. imports for most of the year, Lethbridge College and Sunterra Greenhouse have partnered on a project that aims to optimize the growing conditions for pre-commercial and commercial-scale production of strawberries and tomatoes on the vine and boost Alberta’s crop output during times of limited supply and low import quality.
Lethbridge College will provide greenhouse research expertise to support applied research activities and develop new learnings to advance innovative indoor growing techniques in Alberta. Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) will invest $783,205 in this project.
“Alberta-made food is delicious, and development of our food sector supports local businesses and self-sufficiency,” said Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry, in a press release. “This new greenhouse project for Alberta-grown strawberries will provide year-round produce for families across our province.”
“It’s a good news story. We believe that, for Alberta, agriculture is the future and in a lot of ways will be an economic growth driver,” said Ray Price, president of Sunterra Group, in a press release. “We have land, we have energy, we have people, and we have water, and we should be using those to feed not only Albertans but people around the world.”
Through this project, Lethbridge College will continue to build on its unique expertise in sustainable food production, improving indoor growing conditions by establishing best practices for water and nutrient management and energy efficiency. Through technological innovations greenhouse operations will increase their environmental efficiency while making their operations more productive and competitive.
- Lethbridge College’s greenhouse research facility at Brooks, Alta., is 60,000 sq. ft. and operates to advance greenhouse research and demonstration for Alberta producers.
- Sunterra’s commercial greenhouse operation in Acme, Alta., will be built to accommodate 70 acres of growing space, making it one of the largest food production areas under glass in Alberta. The first 20-acre phase is scheduled for completion in October 2021.
- Sunterra anticipates that up to 200 new jobs will be created once the greenhouse expansion is complete over the next three to four years.
- There are approximately 230 greenhouse operations in Alberta.
- Alberta’s greenhouse industry supports over 2,000 full-time and over 2,500 part-time jobs.
To learn more about RDAR research projects, please visit rdar.ca/research.