Canada: Quebec's largest cucumber grower ready to pick at the speed of light

With last week's opening of its first phase of 8,5 hectare, Serres Toundra has become Quebec's largest producer of greenhouse grown cucumbers.

The ribbon cutting opening ceremony at Serres Toundra last week.

Serres Toundra is located in Saint Felicien and is a spin-off project from a nearby pulp mill of Resolute Forrest Products. The residual heat and CO2 of this paper factory is used to grow cucumbers and mini-cucumbers year round for the local market.

The project is a great example of the cooperation between Canadian entrepreneurs and Dutch horticultural suppliers. Dutch consultancy agency AAB was selected as the overall management company and brought together a key selection of Dutch greenhouse technology suppliers like KUBO, Stolze and Delphy.

The newly opened 8,5 hectare greenhouse is the first phase of the project. The overall projection is planned and expected to grow with three additional phases in the next couple of years. In 2019, a total of four 8,5 hectare phases should be in full operation.

Upon completion, Serres Toundra will have absorbed an investment of $100 million and created over 500 jobs. In phase 1, annual production will reach over 45 million Lebanese and English cucumbers. "For us, creating Serres Toundra is an extraordinary accomplishment," said Toundra CEO Éric Dubé. "It will create jobs, diversify our local economy, and bring innovation in the form of technology and energy efficiency."

All of the produce will be distributed on the local market, providing an alternative for trucked in produce from Mexico, California, or Ontario. "Our company's ultimate goal is to make Quebec a self-sufficient producer of the vegetables it consumes, thereby reducing imports from outside the province," explained Caroline Fradet, Senior Vice President of Toundra Greenhouse.

In order to sort and process the freshly picked cucumbers at the speed of light, the grower opted for an extensive grading and packaging line. For this reason they contracted Hortimat for the realization of a complete cucumber grading and packing installation. Hortimat is specialized in the trade and installation of renewed machinery and custom built a complete new packing line for Serres Toundra based on used and renewed materials and machines.

Hortimat installed a large cucumber grading line that has a capacity to sort and grade 18,000 cucumbers per hour. Next to this, two cucumber seal machines were installed, each with the capacity to shrink-wrap 9,000 cucumbers per hour. A palletizing robot was also delivered. This machine stacks the boxes with the graded and sealed cucumbers and enables the grower to maximize it's daily output and prepare the freshly picked cucumbers for delivery within shortest time.

"We are very proud that Serres Toundra has chosen for Hortimat for the supply and implementation of the packing line", said Hortimat's Marcel van der Graaf, who explained that they revised, adjusted and upgraded used machinery according to the customer's demand. "Before shipping to Canada, the complete line was built up and tested in Holland. Upon arrival in Quebec, our crew installed the complete line and delivered the project on December 13, just before the opening of the new greenhouse. Hortimat furthermore supplied new pipe-rail crop working trolleys to the cucumber grower.

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