Interview and photo report:

Mucci shoots for greenERhouse growing

For Mucci Farms, the issues facing greenhouse growers are connected. Rising transportation costs, increasing competition and the need to more efficiently utilize resources can be addressed with a comprehensive marketing and sustainable growth plan. That coherent vision is expressed in Mucci's greenERhouse™ sustainability commitment.

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"The 'ER' stands for environmental responsibilities, employee responsibilities, emissions reductions and energy reductions," explained Mucci's Joe Spano. The plan includes steps to address the different areas in which Mucci, as one of the leading greenhouse growers in Ontario, can improve as a grower. Many of those steps address Mucci's carbon footprint, but even when addressing the environment, the steps can make them a more competitive grower. For example, while finding ways to curb emissions in transporting their products, or by using biomass fuels, Mucci is helping the environment, but they're also helping to reduce their transportation costs.

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"Transportation is an ongoing concern," said Spano. "It has become a more volatile commodity than the products we sell." Establishing production centers closer to markets in the US would also reduce transportation costs, but Spano noted that those types of decisions must be part of a larger plan rather than one in a series of reactive moves. Finding a vision and executing on a plan can better address the issues growers face.

Mucci Farms currently operates 150 acres of greenhouses in Canada and they're the marketing agent for 200 additional acres of Canadian greenhouses. They also market 300 acres of greenhouses in Mexico to shore up their year round supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplants. In addition to their traditional products, they're also expanding their "mini, snack-sized" specialty items which currently include: cutecumbers™ snack-sized cucumbers, Sun Drops™ sweet grape tomatoes, Sapori™ sweet cocktail tomatoes, Tango Pink™ tomatoes, Bella Sweets™ super sweet mini peppers and Sweet to the Point™ mini pointed peppers.

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"Our greenhouses are all in very close proximity to our headquarters, the farthest farm is about 20 kilometers away," said Spano. Even though they get produce from Mexican growers in order to have supplies during the winter, the growers from which they source product in Canada are also relatively close to their Kingsville headquarters.

"We have some support growers in the Toronto region, but everyone else is pretty much local," said Spano. One of the reasons why most production is local is because the region's climate is very well-suited to greenhouse growing. The number of greenhouses in the area is a testament to that, and so is the fact that most of Mucci's support growers are located in the same area.

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Recently, Mucci added a new, state-of-the-art 30-acre greenhouse that incorporates the latest technology. The design has energy-saving features, and in addition to the new greenhouse, they've also expanded their warehouse as well as their newly renovated headquarters. The new warehouse is 65,000 square feet, and the new office space provides additional room for the growing company while incorporating more sustainable touches, like LED lighting.

They're also exploring the idea of expanding their production into the US, but it would be part of a marketing plan to grow their business rather than an attempt to address any one problem. It's also something to think carefully about as, with more growers increasing their production capabilities, the threat of an over-saturated market looms. But Spano said he's confident their products will continue to find a ready market.

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"Competition has always been present in our industry, and at times it feels like we are oversupplied," said Spano. "But today's consumer is more demanding and wants the best all of the time. We feel we bring the best quality to the market, so our products are in great demand."

For more information:
Joe Spano
Mucci International Marketing Inc.
Tel: +1 (519) 326-8881 ext.1202

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