Leamington, ON (January 31st, 2017) – As technology seems to evolve at the speed of sound, NatureFresh™ Farms continues to be at the forefront of the greenhouse vegetable industry by applying cutting edge technologies to it’s operations. In doing so, the company was recently named the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) Ingenious Award Winner for Small/Medium Private (Non-ICT) Category for 2016.
“NatureFresh™ Farms is facing tough competition from other countries with much lower costs and much like the rest of the industry, tighter regulations for food safety & increase requirements for food quality”, said Ronan McGrath, Principal, Ronan McGrath & Associates, Selection Committee Member & Past President, ITAC. In order to compete economically, NatureFresh™ Farms invested in a complete rebuild of its information technology structure to be more operationally efficient. In doing so, the company saw an immediate impact across it’s operations.
“Energy costs have been dramatically reduced and quality and yield have improved due to the full automation of the greenhouses. It’s a great example of multiple technologies put together in order to produce a much lower cost of production and much higher quality product”, said McGrath.
“We are very pleased to be recognized by the Information Technology Association of Canada for this prestigious award”, said Peter Quiring, Owner & President. “The diversity of technologies needed to bring NatureFresh™ Farms to where we are today makes us a leading, and innovative business. As an example, we implemented traceability technology by barcoding every vegetable we grow before it was a legislative requirement, and this was just the start”, added Quiring.
By implementing new technologies across all facets of the operation, NatureFresh™ saw immediate returns on its investment. Given the size of its operation across multiple sites in 2 different countries, NatureFresh™ needed real time access to support its teams. The ability to remote in to the growing infrastructure systems gave NatureFresh™ growers direct access to their crops via smartphone or tablet.
“Our information technology overhaul touched all aspects of NatureFresh™ Farms. From our sales & administrative teams who were provided with new and more reliable tools that could be remotely controlled, updated or fixed, to the production line that was handling the product directly”, commented Keith Bradley, IT Manager. “Warehouse staff and forklift operators were also provided with tablets to monitor orders in real time to our Packing teams that had a whole new set of technologies to improve the picking, packing and sorting of our produce. This was a monumental shift for our organization”, said Bradley.
“From a consumer perspective, how we use technology to help grow our vegetables helped us create conversations with hundreds of people each week when touring our mobile Greenhouse Education Center (GEC)”, said Chris Veillon, Director of Marketing. The GEC is equipped with technology developed by PRIVA that enables NatureFresh™ growers to monitor plant health on the trailer from anywhere in the world. From watering to plant nutrition to greenhouse roof venting, all are controlled remotely by a smartphone app.
The use of technology has not only improved overall connectivity to its growing operations; it also leveraged the opportunity for greater data collection and knowledge sharing across the company. Reducing operational costs is the goal while increasing overall quality to the customer.