"The benefit of late planting is that heat and light are abundant and it all goes very fast." Speaking is Business Director Vijay Randhawa with Perpetual Vegetable Co, the brand of Randhawa Farms. The company recently put a new 15 acre greenhouse into production and Vijay tells all about this expansion.
For more than a quarter century the Randhawa family has been growing vegetables in BC. The company has expanded into a 76-acre farm, producing cucumbers and peppers. Earlier this year they launched their own brand, the 'Perpetual Vegetable Co.' brand.
Newest addition to the farm is a 15 acre greenhouse, to which the plants have just gone in. Vijay shows how the plants are doing really well in their new home. "They rooted in just six days. We’ve had a high level of light and temperature recently which can create some challenges for our emerging plants but we put a heavy coat of ReduSol on our glass to ease that. The benefit of late planting is that heat and light are abundant and it all goes very fast."
The plants grow on Rockwool since it enables the team to recirculate their water earlier. "Our plants grow healthier and stronger compared to using other solutions."
In the new greenhouse Gina is grown, a bell pepper variety from Syngenta. "Its flavor, quality and thick, heavy walls were deciding factors for us when we chose this pepper", Vijay says. "The peppers are already set and the quality looks great. We plan to be picking the first or second week of June."
Since this means it will be a shorter season - a little more than six instead of the normal nine months production - some adjustments in cultivation are being made. "Since this season will produce quickly, we will be pruning the plants to avoid setting too many peppers as to allow enough energy for each plant."
Highest in BC
The new greenhouse is the tallest in BC to this scale. "It allows for better humidity and temperature control while maintaining a good microclimate for our peppers", Vijay explains.
And there's more. Kava Technologies, a company owned by the family, partnered with a world-renowned motor/fan manufacturer and designed an air circulation fan. "This fan has a minimal power footprint and uses patented technology to create the best airflow in the greenhouse for even temperatures and maintaining the microclimate." Kava Technology plans to bring these fans to market very soon.
Vijay explains how they've also gotten lucky and hit an artesian water source so they don’t have to rely on city water. "Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and having a reliable source is of utmost importance to us."
In addition to the greenhouse expansion, also a new packing line is realised. This is to be running by next spring. The new cooler facility is already in place. "The cooler is ready and we have added additional cooling infrastructure. Just this week we have also installed an air sterilization system in our cooler to increase shelf life. We are ready for summer!" says Vijay.
It might be clear: things are going fast with Perpetual Vegetable Co. What's their secret? Vijay laughs. "No secrets here! We just try to keep things simple by locating our farms within close proximity of each other."
All of their farms, except the one where their house sits, are all within 3 km of one another. "This close proximity allows for our amazing team to visit every farm every day if needed. Our family also does the growing ourselves. We understand that producing high quality consistent produce is the main ingredient of our success, so we have and always intend to keep our growing skills up to date."
Still, in expanding rapidly, challenges are to be found. "The biggest challenge in expanding is finding local staff experienced in vegetable production", Vijay says.
A lot of talent has transitioned to cannabis along with greenhouse service providers. "We rely heavily on workers from Guatemala, India and Mexico, and it can be difficult because of bylaws and legislation to get approval to bring workers in and build housing for them. We are advocating our municipal, provincial and federal government to help make this process easier for the greenhouse industry, which employs more people per acre than any other type of farming."
The Randhawa family
Perpetual Vegetable brand
The peppers grown are to be sold under the new Perpetual Vegetable brand as well. This new brand was launched earlier this year. "We’re really looking forward to packing all of our peppers into our new brand, which we feel truly captures the essence of what we do", Vijay says. "We’re running through the last of our existing packaging inventory and plan to start packing in the Perpetual Vegetable brand in June."
Produce grown by the Randhawas in the Perpetual Vegetable Co. brand are available from Oppy.