Another year, another greenhouse built. And it has been the perfect project to kick off our 20th year anniversary!
Our team in Leamington, ON recently completed construction on and planting of the first crop in our newest greenhouse facility! The completion of this greenhouse brings NatureFresh™ Farms to over 200 acres of family-owned facilities.
Yes, that’s right: NatureFresh™ Farms now owns and operates over 200 acres of greenhouses that are producing the highest quality Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers on the market!
Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look at this impressive greenhouse and how its first planting season unfolded.
A Sneak Peek Behind New Glass
Planning the development of a greenhouse takes significant time and effort, but after only 9 months of construction, our newest greenhouse in Leamington, ON was ready for its first crop to be planted by the end of April 2019.
Fully completed, the facility measures 32 acres in total area and, to the gutter, is 7.3 meters tall. This means that we have ample space to grow hundreds of thousands of pounds of your favorite Tomato varieties for every season to come.
For this greenhouse’s first season, we are growing just over 15 acres of Tomatoes-on-the-Vine and just over 15 acres of a diverse range of Specialty Tomato varieties, including Red Cherry, Red Grape, and Cocktail Tomatoes. With a strong season ahead, we are expecting these same Tomato plants to grow in the greenhouse for at least a full 12 months!
Did you know? Some Tomato varieties can grow up to 50 feet in length within a single season!
Thanks to the addition of this greenhouse to our total operation, NatureFresh™ Farms will now be growing Tomatoes packed with flavor and irresistible freshness all year long. This means your favorite local stores will have NatureFresh™ Farms Tomato products available for purchase January through December!
The Latest Tech
This new facility is also equipped with innovative technology that will ensure our plants have the best growing environment possible.
When Tomatoes are picked by our Crop Workers, carts filled with the harvested produce are pulled to the Warehouse area using a self-driving cart system. The carts use sensors to follow an inductive wire located on the floor – the wire guides the carts to and from their designated packing lines and greenhouse walkways. Arrows on the floor also show which direction the cart will move when following this wire. The carts even have a sensor on the front that causes it to stop when a person steps up to 3 feet in front of the moving cart!
We use the same automated cart system throughout our Delta, Ohio facility, but this is the first time we will use them in one of our Ontario-based greenhouses. We can’t wait to see this innovation in action when First Picks season arrives!
To help our plants grow strong during the winter months, we will be using High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) supplemental lighting fixtures – 15,972 fixtures, to be exact.
HPS lights are used commercially for indoor farming when there isn’t enough natural light from the sun to sustain plant growth. Since the sun provides the southern Ontario region with the least amount of sunlight during the winter months, we need to provide our crops with another light source – this way, the plants can produce high-quality food that we will consistently harvest at even the coldest times of the year.
Did you know? In our region, we see the least amount of natural sunlight between the months of September and March – that’s why our newest greenhouse will use supplemental lighting technology during these months.
Another innovation being used throughout our new facility is Vertifans (or Vertical Circulation Fans). We use 145 fans scattered throughout the greenhouse to collect warm air that has risen to the top and blow it down tubes that are hanging open approximately 1 foot off the ground.
The Vertifans help hot air circulate throughout the greenhouse instead of letting it collect near the top of the structure. With these machines, air flow is increased, and warm temperatures are more easily maintained within the greenhouse environment – this is especially important when growing during cold Ontario winters.
A Growing Team
A new greenhouse operation also means more team members are needed to keep us growing strong.
When our first crop starts producing ripe Tomatoes, this new greenhouse will have close to 80 Grow-To People working every day to pick, pack, and ship our Tomato products to grocery stores in your community. This means we will always have Growers, Scouts, Crop Workers, and other team members on hand to lend their expertise and knowledge whenever it’s needed.
In addition to our hardworking Grow-To People, there is one more important group of workers who will play an important role within this new facility – our bugs! Tomato plants need help with the process of pollination, so throughout the season, we will introduce hundreds of thousands of Bumble Bees to the crop to naturally pollinate the plants. We will also introduce a host of good bugs to the crops to help keep them healthy and free of bad bugs. There’s no doubt in our minds – bugs are a Grower’s best friend!
Did you know? The smaller the Tomato variety, the more Bumble Bees that are needed to help pollinate its plants! This is because smaller Tomato varieties grow more fruit per vine, which means there are more flowers that need to be pollinated.
The First Crop
Our team successfully planted the facility’s first crop – over 235,000 new Tomato plants! Browse our gallery below for some of the highlights from the first planting season for this impressive operation.
Over 200 acres owned and operated by NatureFresh™ Farms. The first of our greenhouses in Ontario to use supplemental lighting. Year-round Tomato growth coming from farms in Leamington, ON and Delta, OH. And all in our 20th year of growing!
It’s clear that this new greenhouse facility helped our team hit many big milestones together. We can all agree that NatureFresh™ Farms has come far since 1999 – but we have set our sights on an even brighter future!