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New trends in the greenhouse produce industry

Greenhouse locations migrate and product innovation continues

For many years, greenhouse growers have been growing produce in the same location and were either East Coast based, or West Coast based. However, in recent years, the trend of migration has set in. "The division between East and West is fading," says Kevin Batt, Oppy's Category Director of Greenhouse. East Coast companies are coming to the West and West Coast players are expanding into the East. "In the first place, this shift has been caused by growth. In some cases, growers were maxed out in their local area and started looking for opportunities elsewhere," he commented. In addition, the shift is driven by relationships. Retail customers are located throughout the country and with many growers offering nationwide distribution, it's valuable to be close to these relationships.

Up until now, Oppy has strictly been partnering with growers on Canada's West Coast. All located in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, Perpetual Vegetable Co. is set in Abbotsford and Origin Organic Farms grows organic greenhouse vegetables out of Langley and Delta. Last but not least, a vertical lettuce farm is located in Pitt Meadows. "Our strong presence out West made it really exciting to host CPMA in Vancouver two weeks ago," Batt said. "It allowed us to highlight our growers and a lot of retailers came by to visit and meet with our growers face to face." With many of Oppy's retail customers being based out East, this was the perfect opportunity to have them tour the growers' facilities, meet the growers and their families, as well as build relationships. "Our growers were able to showcase what they do in their own backyards, which was a huge success for them." The growers all have unique stories to share. Perpetual Vegetable Co. for instance is the story of a father who immigrated to Canada from India. After years of being a farm worker, he was able to purchase five acres of land. The family continued to build and now they grow over 100 acres of greenhouse seedless cucumbers and peppers.

The three brothers Amit, Ajay, and Vijay of Perpetual Vegetable Co.

Shift to Saskatchewan
"With our nationwide distribution and a lot of relationships being out East, we are looking at expanding into other areas," Batt said. "Although we will always be a West Coast company, we are looking into shifting our business model a little bit. Basically, a migration that is part of an expansion with the bulk of our business staying out West." Just two weeks ago, Oppy announced a partnership with DEEP Earth Energy to establish an integrated greenhouse in conjunction with Canada's pioneering geothermal power facility in Saskatchewan. While this partnership is an example of a shift out East, it also holds an innovation at product level. "This project is much more than just producing another tomato," commented Batt. "It runs much deeper than that and the sustainability of this is going to be world class."

Kevin Batt of Oppy and Kirsten Marcia with DEEP.

Green tomato
As the Canadian government looks to decommission coal mines in Saskatchewan, DEEP Earth Energy stepped up and wants to develop Canada's first-ever geothermal power facility. The facility will use the earth's natural heat reservoirs, ensuring low-emission power generation to support its operations alongside a state-of-the-art greenhouse. In partnership with Oppy, this initiative aims to establish a new model of sustainable agriculture, channeling geothermal energy, heat, and CO2 for year-round cultivation. "This venture will verify all the green initiatives retailers keep touting," Batt said. "It's one thing to speak about it, but now they have an opportunity to put their weight behind it and not only do it at store level, but at the source. I think that's huge." Essentially, it's growing tomatoes by using hot water. Both Oppy and DEEP Earth Energy are very excited about the partnership. "It's our goal to develop a long-term collaboration like we've been doing with our other greenhouse growing partners," Batt commented. "With some relationships spanning multiple decades, it's how we envision our alignment with DEEP as well."

DEEP Earth Energy facility in Saskatchewan.

For more information:
Kelsey Van Lissum
Tel.: +1 (604) 461-6779
[email protected]