Now is the time for more Canadian farms to learn about and invest in advanced greenhouse food production. The impacts from the pandemic opens the possibility for visionary changes to Canadian food systems. Not only can greenhouse production increase food security among vulnerable populations, the technology involved can be a meaningful driver of renewed employment for a highly skilled workforce. Expanding Ontario’s strawberry sector could result in up to $45 million of increased farm-gate revenue and meet 50% of the provincial demand. Similar market opportunities exist across the country for a number of crops. There has never been a better time for Canadians to grow more food with the tools of precision agriculture.
By Gavin Schneider
There are three main challenges to increased greenhouse production in Canada. The first is to expand the funding avenues for the significant initial investment required by high-tech infrastructure. Next is overcoming labor shortages through technology that assists a grower to cover more acres. The third challenge is expanding the horticultural knowledge base for efficient production. Innovations in digital and data driven agriculture will be necessary to empower farmers to grow more food. Building lasting partnerships between Canadian ag-tech companies and growers is crucial to this expansion. With the right technology, financing, and imagination, agripreneurs have the opportunity to expand their business in a range of horticultural crops, finding new ways to bring nutritious food to local and global markets.
Greenhouses are our best tool to achieve the efficiency, consistency, and quality required by future farms to feed a global population. The convergence of digitization, climate control, and biological crop protection represents a significant change to food production. Farmers can use more support to fully benefit from these changes. In a time of focus on front-line workers, the decisions made today by the government and independent investors could have an outsized impact on the future of Canadian food supplies. Take note: now is the time to expand Canada’s 866 vegetable greenhouses and the technology that goes into them.
Canadian growers can follow the lead of their counterparts in the Netherlands, Russia, and China who recognize that a cold climate is no longer the limit for what can be profitably grown. Thinking beyond the tomato, bell pepper, or cucumber, alternative crops are finding their way under the greenhouse. Novelties like sweet potatoes, wasabi, vanilla bean, and countless other vegetables could profitably be grown in Canadian greenhouses. With global uncertainty around food supplies, Canadians should seize this opportunity to embrace and expand greenhouse technology and primary products. Sustainable intensification through greenhouse production, even at a small scale, can bring new livelihood and economic opportunities for the flexible farmer.