Vermillion Growers officially announced the opening of their tomato greenhouse in Dauphin on July 27. Photo by: Kevin Weedmark.Sierra D’Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The first 12-acres greenhouse in the Prairies—developed by Vermillion Growers—held its grand opening in Dauphin, MB on July 27.

“We’re celebrating a massive milestone for Vermillion Growers, and we are thrilled that so many of you have taken the time to celebrate with us today,” said Maria Deschauer, managing director of Vermillion Growers.

“This facility is a testament to the strength of global collaboration, and the geographical representation in this room here today makes that very obvious.

“Vermillion Growers was born with the simple desire to make a difference in our community. Growing food, growing people, and growing communities has been our model from the beginning. It’s so satisfying to see this vision become a reality.

“This year with Red Sun Farms’ assistance, we’ll be selling over 10 million pounds of tomatoes.

“We’ll be employing 35 full-time staff, and we will be working with Assiniboine Community College as they launch their new Horticultural Production program right here in Dauphin.

“If you’re here this evening it’s because you have played a role of making this vision a reality. On behalf of Vermillion Growers, I want to express our gratitude. Thank you.”

Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture, Derek Johnson, also shared a few words at the event.

“What an exciting time to be here for this amazing milestone for development here,” said Johnson.

“I’m very pleased to be here on behalf of our premier, the honorable Heather Stefanson, the department of agriculture, my colleagues of the legislature, the MLA for Dauphin Brad Michaleski who is here today, Rick Wowchuk the MLA for Swan River who is here today as well.

“It’s great to see everyone who is here today and get together to celebrate such an amazing facility like this. I would like to thank Vermillion Growers for the invitation and to be a part of today’s event, in celebrating this achievement for Vermillion Growers and the community of Dauphin.”

How was the greenhouse developed for a rural climate? 

Ricky Elz, Greenhouse Key Account Product Manager from Gakon Netafim, explained how the greenhouse was designed accordingly to sustain the weather conditions in rural Manitoba.

“We have designed this greenhouse specifically to the Dauphin area,” said Elz.

“We’ve done a climate study and a crop assessment to make sure that our design worked in the Dauphin location, given that the temperatures could drop below 30 degrees in the winter time and the snow accumulation on the roof. 

“We’ve taken that into consideration and designed the structure and the roof of the greenhouse to withstand such a high load.”

Elz spoke about the differences between the greenhouse that was built for Dauphin, compared to other greenhouses that are built for milder climates.

“When it comes to the foundation of the greenhouse, it’s a deeper foundation,” he said. “The posts are all thicker in size and are larger, and the aluminum roof would be manufactured differently in our manufacturing facility in the Netherlands.”

All of the equipment used to construct and install the greenhouse came from the Netherlands.  

“The manufacturing of the structure and the materials came from the Netherlands,” said Elz.

“It’s all transported from the Netherlands in a container on a ship, and then over to Canada. Then we make arrangements for it to be transferred from the border to the drop site, and then we’ll have crews on site to start the construction.”

Elz was asked how Netafim first connected with Vermillion Growers for the project.

“Typically clients would be looking for a greenhouse supplier, or a greenhouse building company, and they came across our company,” he said. 

“They reached out to us and we started working on this project three years prior, putting designs and plans together, helping the climate analysis and the feasibility of a project of this magnitude. 

“We came to an agreement. Then we started the process of manufacturing all of the materials. Once it was ready we sent it to the site and we started assembly.”

With the greenhouse being 12 acres large—with plans of expanding it up to 70 acres under glass— Elz mentioned some of the challenges that came with developing the facility.

“We faced some challenges due to Covid obviously, also depending on the availability of shipments and containers, the price of some logistics was one,” said Elz.

“As well, the main challenge was the climate. Typically it’s much lower snow loads for what we build within the Ontario region or northern of U.S., southern areas too because it’s a totally different climate.

“We have to look at the climate for the crop and what that climate can produce, and we design the greenhouse base off of that.”

There is potential for creating more greenhouses as large as the one in Dauphin across the Prairies, said Elz. 

“There’s a high demand for greenhouse grown produce everywhere currently, North America specifically in the U.S. and Canada,” Elz said.

“People like to get fresh produce in the supermarkets within 24 hours from harvesting. It gives a longer shelf life, and also cuts down on the costs. You’re able to reduce the distance logistics between the greenhouse and the shipping markets and distribution centres, if you have multiple greenhouses within a couple hours of driving.

“From a sustainability standpoint, it’s very helpful to the way people eat and consume food. People are more aware that if you get your produce locally produced and shipped to your local supermarket, that’s beneficial to everyone. Also, it lowers the costs, and improves the nutrition or health for people too. 

“As well, it creates more jobs in the market. It promotes more investors to come to such areas and invest into such agricultural product. It’s good on their portfolios. As well it encourages more people to travel or immigrate to such areas because they can find jobs in those areas. We see a lot of economic development in such areas and a lot of investors are looking at building greenhouses all over the country.”

Potential expansion for additional greenhouses across the Prairies

Elz was asked if Gakon Netafim is in discussion with other investors for developing more greenhouses in the Prairies.

“Yes, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, as well as Ontario. That’s within Canada, and in the U.S., I’ll say the main places are Virginia, Florida, California, Texas, pretty much all over the North American map,” he said.

He spoke about the next two phases for expanding Vermillion Growers greenhouse in the next few years.  

“With Vermillion, we’ve only built the first phase which is 12 acres,” he said. “They have the land ready and the plans to expand up to 70 acres which will multiply the production volume as well as creating over 200 jobs for that greenhouse.”

From seeing the project start to finish, Elz said it felt great to be in Dauphin on the day of the grand opening for the greenhouse.

“I was there, boots on the ground, from the first day they started with the foundations, I’ve been at the greenhouse throughout the process from when they put up the structure, when they started the screening system, and when they also finished the greenhouse, as well at the grand opening,” he said.

“It’s a great feeling to see it. It’s a huge milestone for Vermillion Growers, also for Gakon Netafim our greenhouse manufacturer and builder. 

“It’s a huge step forward in the controlled environment of agriculture.”

By Sierra D’Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 08, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Moosomin World-Spectator   , Moosoomin, Saskatchewan

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