Bolstered by food security concerns stemming from the pandemic, Quebec’s government has plans to increase greenhouse production volume between 2020 and 2025. The government plans were announced in late 2020 but were recently a major topic of discussion at a webinar organized by Zone Agtech, an accelerator for small and medium-sized agtech enterprises. Zone Agtech is located near Montreal, Quebec and recently hosted a webinar focusing on the future of Quebec’s greenhouse industry.
Challenges to the Quebec greenhouse industry
Dr. Martine Dorais, researcher and professor at Laval University, participated in the webinar and discussed the challenges facing Quebec’s greenhouse. According to Martine, a significant challenge facing Quebec’s greenhouse industry is achieving balance between productivity and sustainability. She explains that sustainability can be improved through use of renewable energy, heat recovery, innovative glazing materials and transformation of organic waste.
Also challenging is the reliance on foreign workers, which has proven especially challenging during the pandemic due to travel restrictions, required quarantine upon arrival and social distancing measures. According to Martine, the sector may be able to attract more Canadian workers by raising salaries for greenhouse workers and highlighting technological advancements within the sector. With the provincial government having committed to doubling the number of greenhouses in Quebec, the sector’s labor requirements will likely increase in coming years and would create positions for trained growers and researchers. The need for horticultural training will thus also increase, according to Martine.
Additional challenges include the development of phytosanitary strategies to responsibly manage pests and diseases, the coordination of research efforts and grower eligibility for subsidized electricity. Many of these challenges are being addressed through innovative technologies including automation and artificial intelligence, advanced artificial lighting strategies and the use of biostimulants.
Supporting Quebec’s greenhouse industry
To support the development of its greenhouse industry, Quebec’s ministry of agriculture (MAPAQ) published its strategy to foster growth in the greenhouse industry between 2020 and 2025. The strategy aims to double volume of greenhouse fruits and vegetables by 2025, while shifting towards renewable energy sources. In 2020-2021, MAPAQ announced multiple programs to support greenhouse development in Quebec. The “Initiative ministérielle pour le développement des serres et des grands tunnels" was developed to support smaller operations in building greenhouses and tunnels and modernizing equipment. Similarly, the “Programme de soutien au développement des entreprises serricoles” provides up to $600,000 to medium-sized operations for expansion and modernization project. MAPAQ also developed a support program for major projects, providing $125,000-$3,000,000 in financial support.
MAPAQ also announced plans to increase access to triphased electricity, to develop a research program focused on greenhouse production and an open call to propose technological solutions to greenhouse challenges (open until May 11).
Aside from MAPAQ, the webinar also hosted multiple agtech companies and was sponsored by Sobey’s. Participating companies included Savoura, Industries Harnois, Sollum Technologies, Gibio, Messis and EcoTech, among others.
For more information:
MAPAQ programs https://www.quebec.ca/nouvelles/actualites/details/croissance-serres/ Zone Agtech