Lauren Rathmell tends to some vegetable plants in the nursery at Lufa Farms Inc., rooftop greenhouse in Montreal, Saturday, March 26, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

2006 Greenhouse Study Tour Canada

Saskia Blanch

When:
September 29, 2006 – October 8, 2006 all-day
2006-09-29T00:00:00+10:00
2006-10-09T00:00:00+10:00
Where:
Fairmont Hotel
Vancouver
BC
Canada
Cost:
Free

Event Overview

FINAL REPORT: PROJECT NUMBER VG06071

Read the Greenhouse Study Tour Canada Report

 

Project Leader: 
Graeme Smith

Purpose:
The purpose of the project was to assess existing, new and emerging
greenhouse technologies and how they may be integrated in existing
systems in Australia.

Funding Source: ?
Horticulture Australia Limited

Date of Report:
Sept 2007

Tour Participants 
Mark Lines – Holla-Fresh – South Australia
Sue Korevaar – Korevaar Hydroponics – Victoria
Anthony Brandsema – J&A Brandsema – Tasmania
Graeme Smith – AHGA – Victoria (Tour Leader)
Joanne Smith – Hydroponic Designs – Victoria
Mark Millis – Flavorite Tomatoes – Victoria
Chris Millis – Flavorite Tomatoes – Victoria
Horst Sjostedt – Flavorite Tomatoes – Victoria

Summary


This study tour allowed us to view firsthand the Canadian growing methods and glasshouse systems that have been developed over more than 20 years. The Australian protected cropping industry is similar to the Canadian model in growing techniques and technology, therefore we assessed their approach to environmental management and plant physiology, with particular emphasis on their growing techniques and their adoption of new & emerging technologies.

Canada has two main greenhouse growing areas in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) and Leamington, Ontario and both are well supported by industry training facilities that are also modern facilities for R&D.

Our industry suffers an acute shortage of opportunities for professional training and education, R& D in a range of technologies that are unique to the industry. Industry benefits are that skills training at all levels is necessary to underpin industry development & growth. Production and quality increases are necessary to meet the increasing demands of QA systems for both domestic and export markets. Industry skilling has the capacity to meet these needs and match the standards of the competitive imports/exports.

Overseas study is mandatory if we are to match production standards with overseas competitors as well as up-skilling the industry resulting in enhanced productivity and farm viability.

Tour Itinerary


DAY 1 – Friday 29th September 
Australia – Vancouver (The Fairmont Hotel)
Depart Australia and arrive Vancouver 1.52pm (same day!)
Recover from flight

DAY 2 – Saturday 30th September (The Fairmont Hotel) 
Vancouver – Chilliwack
Visit Calais Farms, Abbotsford (peppers) in the Chilliwack agricultural region, Fraser River Valley.
Dinner at Grouse Mountain overlooking the city.

DAY 3 – Sunday 1st October (The Fairmont Hotel)
Vancouver
Tour city of Vancouver, visit Granville Island (inc Fresh Produce Market), Stanley Park, etc.

DAY 4 – Monday 2nd October (The Fairmont Hotel) 
Vancouver – Richmond / Delta region
Morning – Hot House Growers Inc (tomatoes)
Lunch at Fort Langley
Afternoon – Glenwood Valley Farms (cucumbers and packhouse)
Kwantlen University College, Langley

DAY 5 – Tuesday 3rd October (Wyndham Bristol Place)
Vancouver – Toronto
Morning flights from Vancouver (8.20am) to Toronto (Ontario), arrive 3.45pm
6.30pm Dinner with Rijk Zwaan followed by presentations by John DeVries & Frek Knol

DAY 6 – Wednesday 4th October (Wyndham Bristol Place) 
Toronto
All day at the Canadian Greenhouse Conference
www.canadiangreenhouseconference.com/
Meet growers, network, attend workshops, buffet dinner.

DAY 7 – Thursday 5th October (Ramada Inn) 
Toronto – Leamington
Morning at the Canadian Greenhouse Conference
Travel to Leamington (greenhouse capital of North America)
Dinner at Spago’s in Leamington (Italian cuisine)

DAY 8 – Friday 6th October (Ramada Inn) 
Leamington Area
Visit 10ha pepper production & Amoroso tomatoes and other specialty tomato products
(Double Diamond Greenhouses and Prism Farms)
Lunch at Pelee Island Winery and tour of facilities.
Greenhouse & Processing Crops Research Station (Harrow) tour & presentation
Dinner at casino in Windsor Ontario.

DAY 9 – Saturday 7th October (Sheraton on the Falls) 
Leamington – Niagara Falls
Morning in Leamington visiting local greenhouse growers (TBA)
Travel to Niagara Falls for farewell dinner at Table Rock Restaurant

DAY 10 – Sunday 8th October 
Niagara Falls – Kitchener – Toronto – Australia
Travel to Kitchener to tour Mennonite country area (if time permits)
Travel to Toronto international airport for departures (6.35pm)

DAY 11 – Monday 9th October
Lost in Transit

DAY 12 – Tuesday 10th October 
Australia
Arrive Australia (7.55am) and travel to home destinations.

Grower Visits & Technologies Inspected


Irrigation Water Temperature Management
Canadian growers are faced with an unusual challenge in managing the temperature of their nutrient solution due to their climate and water sources. (n.b. Ideally the temperature should be maintained between 18 – 22°C to avoid root-zone problems like poor development and fungal diseases (e.g. pythium, etc).

Greenhouse growers in Leamington, Ontario source their water from Lake Erie that ranges in temperature from 0°C to 27°C over the year, therefore this water needs to be temperated prior to irrigating crops.

The correct water temperature is achieved by using heat exchange units that can either heat or cool the irrigation water, by exchanging energy with a water sink that is either hotter or cooler than the supply water from Lake Erie.

  • Heat Exchanger to temperate greenhouse irrigation water.

    Heat Exchanger to temperate greenhouse irrigation water.

  • Lake Erie feeds Niagara Falls and is water source for greenhouse crops.

    Lake Erie feeds Niagara Falls and is water source for greenhouse crops.

Greenhouse Heating
Canadian greenhouse growers are increasingly turning to alternative energy sources as their primary source (natural gas) continues to increase in price. One such alternative is wood waste that is shredded prior to burning and costs approx CAD$3.50/GJ, compared to CAD9.00/GJ for natural gas.

Energy costs and any savings are considerable as temperatures drop to -15C in winter. One downside is that Carbon Dioxide CO2 is not available from wood waste and must be supplied via a smaller natural gas boiler system or bulk liquid tanks.

  • Typical wood waste boiler.

    Typical wood waste boiler.

  • canada_tour_i05

    Wood waste is automatically fed to boiler via a moving floor.

  • canada_tour_i06

    Raw supply of wood waste prior to shredding.

Crop Viruses
Two crop viruses are endemic affecting both tomato (Pepino Mosaic virus) and cucumber (Pseudo Yellow Leaf virus) crops. As a consequence, a significant effort is made to limit either introduction or spread of viruses by:
1. footbaths at greenhouse entry points
2. sterilising tools and equipment at end of each row and end of day
3. sourcing seedlings from accredited, “clean” nurseries
4. ensuring visitors are dressed in suitable protective clothing
5. quarantining affected areas until end of day

  • Pepino Mosaic Virus (tomatoes)

    Pepino Mosaic Virus (tomatoes)

  • canada_tour_i08

    Pseudo Yellow Leaf Virus (cucumbers)

  • canada_tour_i09

    Footbaths at greenhouse entry

  • canada_tour_i10

    Tools collected at end of day for sterilising

Labour
85% of all greenhouse labour is performed by workers from either Mexico or Jamaica with females responsible mainly for crop work and males assigned to general maintenance and removal of crop at end of season. Labour rates at average of CAD$10.30/hour. Some growers allow workers to utilise growing space above access aisles to produce potted
plants and ferns for private sale to supplement their incomes.

Automatic crop & labour registration systems are used to overcome language problems. These systems utilise RFI interface units to identify workers, tasks, greenhouse areas, pest and disease areas and start/stop times by simply passing a transponder over reader unit at appropriate times. Additionally, some systems use a biometric system to read individual thumbprints.

  • Male workers used in general maintenance.

    Male workers used in general maintenance.

  • Female workers used in general crop work.

    Female workers used in general crop work.

  • RFI units for crop and labour registration system.

    RFI units for crop and labour registration system.

  • Main Input for crop & labour registration (inc biometric thumbprint reader)

    Main Input for crop & labour registration (inc biometric thumbprint reader)

  • Workers potted ferns above access aisle.

    Workers potted ferns above access aisle.

  • Misc greenhouse workers.

    Misc greenhouse workers.

Cucumber Crops
Whilst tomato crops are grown in much the same way as in Australia, there are some notable differences in the way cucumber crops are grown. Australian greenhouse growers commonly plant and harvest 3 crops/year, whereas Canadian cucumber growers can target 4 crops a year by “interplanting” (planting seedlings under a mature crop so that picking begins on the young crop as fruiting finishes on the mature crop).

Alternatively, growers can elect to “layer” the crop using the high-wire system. This allows each crop to continue for extended periods usually resulting in 2 crops/year. Additionally, growers can elect to grow under horticultural lights during the darker seasons, resulting in an increase of around 80 fruits/m2 (from 200 to 280/m2).

  • Layered cucumber crop.

    Layered cucumber crop.

  • Cucumber crop grown under lights.

    Cucumber crop grown under lights.

Canadian Greenhouses 
These systems range in size from 4ha (relatively large by Australian standards), to a very large 26ha. The size of these systems demand a different approach on how they transport fruit, transport themselves and how to provide suitable comfort & personal hygiene stations, due to the vast distances needed to travel with a greenhouse (sometimes over 1.5km). Additionally, modern fruit grading systems are utilised to speed up grading and ovoid overpacking tomato trays (e.g. Christmas tree graders).

  • Typical large Canadian glasshouse.

    Typical large Canadian glasshouse.

  • Internal distances are significant in large Canadian glasshouses.

    Internal distances are significant in large Canadian glasshouses.

  • Personal chariot to travel around glasshouse.

    Personal chariot to travel around glasshouse.

  • Internal fruit transport system.

    Internal fruit transport system.

  • canada_tour_i24

    Christmas tree tomato grader.

  • canada_tour_i23

    Greenhouse comfort stations at regular intervals.

R&D Centres
As mentioned above, each main greenhouse growing area in Canada has dedicated grower training and R&D centres to support industry development and ensures that new and emerging greenhouse technologies are adapted for local use and demonstrate to growers how they might integrate these technologies into their own systems.

Some trials observed included an innovative foam generation system that introduces foam between the twin polythene roof layers to act as both a solar shield (in the day) and an energy curtain (at night). Other trials included the most efficient way to distribute sulphur power around the greenhouse using HAF fans and sulphur burning pots.

These facilities allow Canadian growers to maximise there opportunities to become the best greenhouse producers in North America and meet the diverse needs of their consumers in terms of production, crops, colours and packaging options. Such facilities are sorely needed in Australia to drive the industry forward.

  • Foam injection system in greenhouse roof layers.

    Foam injection system in greenhouse roof layers.

  • Trial Sulphur distribution system.

    Trial Sulphur distribution system.

  • Diverse range of Canadian greenhouse products and packaging.

    Diverse range of Canadian greenhouse products and packaging.

Tour Outcomes


The tour group was fortunate to experience a wide variety of technologies, crops, and general growing techniques in a relatively short time frame and clearly highlights the strong value of well structured study tours. The benefit of assessing new and emerging technologies and how to integrate these into their own systems is immeasurable as Australia currently lacks R&D and demonstration centres.

The value in meeting and talking to growers who are producing the same crops in similar circumstances is important in enhancing the individual learning for each participant. The information gained is usually freely given as there is no perception of competition from growers from opposite sides of the planet.

It is my common experience that participants experience a kind of “wow factor” by sensing a glimpse into their own future, and at the very least are able to take back a wide variety of growing tips and tricks to help improve there own enterprise back home.

It is my strong contention that this Canadian Greenhouse Study Tour was no exception and delivered many similar outcomes.

Suggestions for leaders of future study tours

Ours is a strongly technology driven industry and when travelling overseas we will see lots of these new and emerging technologies, however it is important to realise that basic principles still apply. (in terms of plant physiology and environmental management). Australian growers are yet to fully comprehend the growing basics and maybe should concentrate on these before necessarily investing in expensive equipment that possibly will not improve production or quality if not used well. The Australian protected cropping industry suffers an acute shortage of opportunities for professional training and education in a range of technologies that are unique to the industry. Overseas study is mandatory if we are to match production standards with overseas competitors as well as up-skilling the industry resulting in enhanced productivity and farm viability.

It was very clear from the start of the tour that obtaining access to the best Canadian growers was almost impossible unless you had an appointment that only major companies (like seed and equipment suppliers) could facilitate. Normal greenhouse access was restricted due to the threat of disease spread (ie Pepino Mosaic Virus) and prior arrangements were always necessary. Do your homework before you travel.

Viruses are rampant in Canada with destructive stains that are not (yet) found in Australia. These viruses (like Pepino Mosaic in tomatoes and Pseudo Yellow Leaf in Cucumbers would be highly infective if allowed to be imported into Australia. These kinds of viruses can easily be transmitted via clothes or shoes and as spoors can remain viable for up to 40 days, it would be prudent to inform travellers to allow for clothes and shoes to either be discarded on there return or sterilised and placed into home quarantine for a period of at least 60 days before worn in any greenhouse.

Reasonable allowances should be made when planning routes. Growers are happy to welcome us into their greenhouses (provided prior arrangement made), but do not appreciate late arrivals as each & every day in the greenhouse is a busy one.

International phone charges (ie. roaming) can be substantial as charges are applied both to & from Australia and even received calls are charged at a premium rate.

Foreign Currency transaction fees add up to substantial figures when using credit cards, though these are considered desirable as they offer a full financial audit trail for tour costs.

Credit cards can be quickly exhausted by hoteliers or hire-car companies, as they typically hold against your card the full rate for accommodation and car hire, then charge the actual rate on top when paying the bill. The booking fees are not released for around 7 days and can be substantial if paying for the entire group!

Excess baggage was a common event charged by international airlines as tour participants often were overloaded due to an array of notes, books, brochures, gifts, etc that were gathered from expo’s, training institutions, etc. Best to weigh suitcases at hotels and share around group if possible.

Technology Transfer
The learned outcomes of this tour have been presented at a number of industry association meetings and include the following:

West Australian Greenhouse Growers Association (WAGGA) Perth July 2007
Hydroponic Farmers Federation (HFF) Growers Workshop Mansfield August 2007
Misc presentations to Victorian TAFE colleges Shepparton/Geelong/Burnley Jan – July 2007
Article in the ‘Soilless Australia’, newsletter of the AHGA
Article in ‘Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouse Magazine’ Casper Publications Jan 2007

To Come:
HFF Biennial Conference (HFF) planned for April of 2008

Published Article


Canadian Greenhouse Study Tour 
SUE KOREVAAR reports on her tour to study the North American greenhouse vegetable industry, including a look at energy, labour and food safety issues.  Click Here to read this article

Budget


Macedon Ranges Travel Service Air Travel & Insurance, Hotel Accommodation (x 4) $46,815
Alamo 2 x Hire Cars $1,511
Fuel Stations Hire Car Fuel $527
Australian Geographic Thank you Gifts (Canadian growers) $234
Restaurants Celebratory Dinners (mid and end tour) $1,362
Conference Conference Entry Fees $486

Misc Fees
Car Parking Fees $133
Photocopying $44
Study Tour CDs $71
International Phone $204
Australia Post $62
Bank Processing & Foreign Exchange $175
Consulting Fees $850
Tour Adverts (Good Fruit & Vegetables) $500

Total Tour Costs: $52,973

Acknowledgements


In my role as Project Leader, I wish to thank the tour participants (refer page 4) for their co-operation and punctuality. Their interest in all things greenhouse and the general spirit of togetherness was most satisfying. I thank them for their friendship. I specially thank them for their contribution to the information included in this report.

Recognition and appreciation is also given to the following for their welcome contribution to ensuring a successful, informative and interesting tour:

Roelf Schreuder Rijk Zwaan Australia
Stephen Goodwin DPI NSW
Marilyn Steiner DPI NSW
Joyce Lam BC Greenhouse Growers Association
Jonathan Bos Hot House Growers
Freek Knol Area Mgr, De Ruiter Seeds
Gus Mastronardi De Ruiter Seeds North America
Shalin Khosla Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs
Gary Jones Kwantlen University College
Tiessen Family Prism Farms
Mastronardi Family H&A Mastronardi Farms
Ondejko Family Seacliff Nursery

Graeme Smith
Project Leader

GRAEME SMITH CONSULTING
Hydroponic Consultancy Services
PO Box 789, Woodend, Victoria, Australia 3442
Phone: +61 3 5427 2143
Facsimile: +61 3 5427 3843
Mobile: +61 0427 339 009
Email: hydesign@bigpond.net.au