Berry project aims to spark a boom in greenhouse sector

Local only applies to strawberries part of the year, but a new collaboration by Sunterra Group and Lethbridge College aims to change that. “Current demand for fresh, locally grown produce far outstrips the available supply in a market reliant on Mexican and U.S. imports for most of the year,” the college said in a news release on a new initiative it is undertaking with Sunterra.

“This project aims to optimize the growing conditions for pre-commercial and commercial-scale production of strawberries and tomatoes on the vine, and boost Alberta’s crop output during times of limited supply and low import quality.”

Acme-headquartered Sunterra is adding a major greenhouse component to its extensive operations (which includes pork production and processing, cropping, a lineup of traditional Italian cured meats, and a grocery chain).

“It’s a good news story - we believe that for Alberta, agriculture is the future and in a lot of ways will be an economic growth driver,” said Ray Price, president of the Sunterra Group.

“We have land, we have energy, we have people, and we have water, and we should be using those to feed not only Albertans but people around the world.” The effort is getting a $783,000 grant from Results Driven Agriculture Research (the provincially funded body allocating research dollars).

The project will focus on both establishing best practices for water and nutrient management (and energy efficiency) and also on technological innovations in greenhouses that “will increase their environmental efficiency while making their operations more productive and competitive.”

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