After the Event
The PCA Study Tour in October was a great success. Sixteen PCA members write of the high quality of their farm visits, the important information they acquired, and the importance of their camaraderie and shared perspectives as they travelled. Here are some of their highlights.
Seeing different management systems and how different all the results are. There is so much diversity and variation in crops, market and climates between properties and countries. Understanding your crop and your climate helps a grower make informed decisions on appropriate technology. Each have their advantages and disadvantages meaning no one size (system) fits all.
Anthony Brandsema noticed out how a lot of the North American growers left their top vents open while using CO2 enrichment. He felt this was an indication of how inexpensive their gas price is compared to Australia. Max Horvath was shocked that the labour price overseas is nearly half of what we have to pay.
• Doefs Greenhouses – Cucumbers
A highlight for all was visiting Jo Doefs Greenhouses at Edmonton in Canada and seeing how successfully they operate as a family farm. Their perfect greenhouse climate shows in their healthy cucumber crop where they produce 300/m2 – compared to 220/m2 in The Netherlands and 180/m2 in Australia.
Supplemental lighting and a hire wire system using Pellikaan Clips are some of Jo Doefs maximising techniques. Excellent sanitary and bio-security practices have nevertheless not entirely protected them from the dreaded emerald mosaic virus.
Doefs greenhouses also proudly shared that they get 30% of their income from 10% of their sales because of their proximity to their customers.
• Lufa Farms – City Rooftops pictured above
Lufa Farms is a commercial rooftop greenhouse in downtown Montreal where they strive to change the way cities eat through innovation and technology. They grow food where people live, and grow it more sustainably. This means cultivating tomatoes, eggplants, cucumber, greens, and more on city rooftops using
less inputs and without synthetic pesticides.
By being close to customers, they are able to harvest everything on the same day it is delivered to the neighbourhood so it’s as fresh as possible.
Everyone on the tour was captivated by the passion and enthusiasm of these young entrepreneurs to growing and protected cropping. Their niche marketing and close connection to their customers is a great business model and concept in urban horticulture.
• Mexico – Mini Cities
The rate of expansion in Mexico is phenomenal. One site was 60 hectares of glass and plastic and planning to expand another 12 hectares every year. The standard is world class and they producing food for the North American market. They are like mini greenhouse cities, as they have their own energy plants and feed back into the grid. The workers spend all day in one facility, with their lunch rooms attached to the greenhouse, partly to reduce the risk of spread of insects or disease.
• Canadian Biologicals
The Canadian growers have a whole suite of biological controls available for pests and diseases to use in greenhouses compared to us in Australia. Back home we need an acceleration of bio-protectants available as we are lagging behind the rest of the world.
The group saw not only good bugs as predators but also disease control biologicals and bio-insecticides.
They also saw how simple management practices such as mesh on vents and good sanitation is critical for disease control and prevention.
One very simple method to assist the control of problematic pests like thrips is to use banker plants like Mullein and oregano for hosting predatory bugs. Thrips flock to the attractant plant dispersed in the crop which is then be piled with predators. Another simple good idea is to put vanilla beans in a shallow white dish at the opening of the greenhouse which attracts thrips which then all drown.
• Australian Advantages
Being an island Australia is a relatively protected market, also because of our distance from competitors. Compared to the USA, we don’t have Mexico and Canada supplying our market so easily and readily.
At the same time we also have a relative isolation from pests and diseases, with our quarantine protection.
Australian high light levels also save on electricity and infrastructure costs of supplemental lighting.
PCA Nth American Greenhouse Study Tour
Canada, California & Mexico
1-17 October 2014
A mix of hydroponic, greenhouse & aquaponic farm tours, technical research centres,
Canadian Greenhouse Conference & industry networking
Visit state of the art greenhouse operations in a climate similar to your own!
Vancouver – Chilliwack, Abbottsford & Richmond Delta site visits
Montreal – Commercial Greenhouse Rooftops
Niagra Falls – Canadian Greenhouse Conference
Harrow – Greenhouse Research Station
Edmonton – Greenhouse & Aquaponic Site Visits
Mexico City – Queretaro, Irapuato, Ajuchitlan greenhouse site visits.
Los Angeles – Beverly Hills & Houweling Oxnard Nursery, Camarillo
Canadian Greenhouse Conference
Two day full registration – lectures, workshops, farm tour & 300 booth trade expo.
See, touch & interact with new technology & products
Talk to the experts – exhibitors & speakers are a resource for your business.
Bring your questions & get those answers!
Comparison shopping – all the players are on site & eager for your business.
Planning – gather information & collect business contacts for that next purchase or expansion
Connect with colleagues – this might be the most important reason of all – we don’t operate in a bubble. Talk to old friends & make new ones; share industry challenges & solutions.
Return to work re-energized with new ideas & a sense of community.
Graeme Smith Tour Leader
Originally a tomato grower, Graeme now is a highly regarded consultant for a diverse range of hydroponic & greenhouse crops, across many climates. Graeme has hosted several PCA overseas study tours to Europe & North America, which are so well received that many participants return for a second trip and/or send their business partners.
Guided Industry Tours
Greenhouse, hydroponic & Aquaponic production & Research sites
Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Niagra Falls, California & Mexico
Houweling Oxnard Nurseries
A showcase for the future of sustainable agriculture. These two x 20 acre Kubo Ultra-Clima greenhouses were opened in 2009 at a cost of $53.25 million. Production increased by 58%, Water consumption reduced by 66% and run off was eliminated by recycling nutrients. More than 50% of energy needs are generated from their five acre solar panel system. Seeing is believing.
Side Trips & Excursions
Niagra Falls “Maid Of The Mist’ cruise Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mtn & Granville Island Queretaro historic colonial Mexican City tour. Hollywood, Beverly Hills, LA guided tour
*Details subject to change