The numbers involved in running a large-scale greenhouse are not to be taken lightly. Forty-five acres — or almost 2 million square feet — under glass. This translates to 500,000 pounds of production per week. Truly Green, the farm that hosted us for the filming of “Before The Plate,” was a sight to behold. With greenhouses as far as the eye could see, growing tomatoes under glass is no small task.
From the moment we walked in, food safety was the priority. Automated sanitizing boot brushes, hand washing stations and full white body suits where needed for any guests entering the greenhouse. Although the food safety measures were stiff, the environment in the greenhouse was anything but. Hilco and Greg, the founders of Truly Green, were proud to show off their operation and introduce us to all the people who make the farm run smoothly. We learned everything from how they use bees to help pollinate plants in the greenhouse to the use of a full integrated pest management system that essentially eliminated the need for any pesticides. Of course, if an isolated incident did take place then the use of pesticides would be permitted, but having a fully controlled environment greatly reduces the need.
Like any large farming operation, more bad is assumed than good. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have the same innocence as a small market garden. That being said, there were some pretty amazing innovations that most people don’t realize are putting us on the right track to producing a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food supply.
At first glance, Canada is a cold country with less than ideal growing conditions for half of the year. Growing staple vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers inside allows for a more continues food supply that is fresher and more accessible. Granting more people access to fresh, locally grown vegetables year-round should be an accomplishment we are all proud of. However, like with any solution, there are unintended consequences. Unfortunately, most greenhouse operations have to use large amounts of energy in the colder months to keep their plants growing and healthy. Truly Green has come up with a unique solution that is changing the way the industry thinks about greenhouse placement. During the planning stages of setting up the Truly Green greenhouses, they strategically placed the farm next to a large ethanol plant. After negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement, the carbon dioxide gasses and excess heat that are a byproducts of ethanol production are critical to the plants inside the greenhouse. Now a renewable fuel source is also being harnessed to power food production while as the same time cleaning the air we breathe!
These are the good news stories of modern agriculture that we as an industry need to do a better job of telling the interested public back in the cities.
Dylan Sher is the creator of the “Before The Plate” food documentary. To connect with “Before The Plate’s” journey, follow them on Facebook and on Instagram and stay tuned to AGDAILY.com. Click here to donate to “Before the Plate.”