Greenhouse growers say they are almost victims of their own success when it comes to how shoppers often view their products.

“Misconceptions around greenhouse-grown foods may have begun with the ‘perfection’ associated with our products,” says John Newell, Chief Operating Officer of Windset Farms®. 

“Consumers see flawless, consistent product and assume it is a result of genetic modification or chemical control.”

The truth is that this seeming perfection comes from the controlled environment in which greenhouse crops are grown, says Newell. These factors include temperature, water, and nutrients among other factors.

The greenhouse advantage

“Greenhouses use only 0.01 percent of B.C.’s total farmland and produce approximately 11 percent of the province’s total agriculture production value."

Greenhouse produce includes varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce. The method of growing in a greenhouse is called “hydroponic,” meaning there is no actual soil involved. Instead, seeds are planted in biodegradable materials, such as coconut fiber.

This allows the roots to grow easily and eliminates soil-borne diseases and other pests.

Herbicides aren’t required in hydroponic greenhouse growing, since weeds are controlled with the use of plastic sheeting. At the end of the season, these sheets are removed so the greenhouse can be thoroughly cleaned: this ensures no pests or plant diseases are carried into the next growing season.

 

Celebrating B.C. Veggie Day. Video credit:  BC Greenhouse Growers Association

Conserving resources

Water plays a big part in greenhouse growing —- as it does in all farming -— but here too, methods differ significantly. Instead of water sinking into soil, greenhouse plants are watered and fed through a drip irrigation system that is computer-controlled. It feeds the plants the exact amount of water and nutrients needed on a continuing basis, and collects all drainage and rainwater for future use.

“Our method of growing is almost completely self-sufficient when it comes to water,” says Jos Moerman, a director of B.C. Greenhouse Growers’ Association and a third-generation greenhouse grower himself.

“Our greenhouses have yield that is much higher than field-grown without wasting so much water,” Moerman says.

Not only is yield high — greenhouses use only 0.01 percent of B.C.’s total farmland and produce approximately 11 percent of the province’s total agriculture production value — but pest management is done with biological controls.

“We use good bugs to fight bad bugs,” says Moerman, so consumers who want near-organic veggies can feel good about buying greenhouse grown produce.

More environmental benefits come from growing in the controlled atmosphere of greenhouses:

  • B.C. greenhouses operate 10 months of the year.
  • Produce is locally grown, not transported thousands of miles.
  • Rain water is stored and used as irrigation water.
  • The greenhouses in B.C. use glass for optimum light and the use of shade curtains can block radiation, thereby protecting plants from sun damage. 

What’s great about being a B.C. greenhouse grower? 

“We are proud of what we are producing,” says Moerman, “we can stand behind our product. And every year, we start all new.”