Having served Canadian growers for 15 years, Texas-based Hort Americas opens an office in Montreal to assist growers with production challenges, product solutions and educational opportunities.
While the Leamington-Kingsville region of Ontario, Canada, is well known for its greenhouse vegetable production, other parts of the country are underserved by the controlled environment agriculture industry.
“This area in southwest Ontario located near Detroit is where 50 percent of the CEA production in North America is occurring,” said Jordan Goulet, general manager at Hort Americas Canada. “Even with this large production area, other parts of Canada, including Quebec, don’t have ready access to locally-grown produce. Quebec, which has lagged behind Ontario, is an area for potential growth in CEA production. Another reason for opportunity in Quebec is the federal and provincial incentives for growers to expand and build new greenhouses.”
Texas-based Hort Americas, a commercial horticultural supplier, has expanded its presence in the Canadian market by opening an office in Montreal, Quebec.
“Because Quebec is bilingual, a lot of new companies that want to be in the CEA space will establish their business in English-speaking Leamington and will try to sell there,” Goulet said. “These companies won’t go to Quebec initially because they have to deal with the French-speaking growers and the French-speaking structure around the growers, which puts them at a disadvantage.
“For Hort Americas it was strategic to locate its Canadian office in Quebec. Hort Americas is composed of a bilingual team which is a benefit since French is the primary language in Quebec.”
More than a products supplier
Hort Americas Canada has established four product categories which it will specialize in. These include: lighting, substrates, fertilizers and support products such as clips, hooks, twine and trays.
“One of our goals is to source as many solutions to respond to the ever evolving needs of controlled environment growers,” Goulet said. “The pandemic and the recent struggles in the global supply chain have taught us how important it is to do this. Hort Americas works to source local solutions for growers to solve their existing problems.
“We want to support every product that we sell. We are trying to integrate as many products and solutions that are available to growers who deal with us. Hort Americas has a mission to provide the CEA industry with the most technically-advanced and cost-effective solutions to support growers and help them to be profitable. We are doing this through a strong focus on education and learning.”
Goulet cites the increased interest in and production of greenhouse strawberries.
“Greenhouse strawberry production was not a big crop a few years ago,” he said. “The work that Hort Americas did with university researchers and growers, we saw that strawberries were becoming an up-and-coming crop. We developed a package of products and cultural practices specifically for greenhouse strawberry production. An increasing number of greenhouse growers are either converting their greenhouses to strawberry production or adding strawberry crops so we are ready to service them.”
In addition to its product offerings, Hort Americas is also providing technical information which it has translated from English into French and Spanish.
“Plant science applies to all North American countries, whether the growers are in the U.S., Canada or Mexico,” Goulet said. “There’s not really much difference where it would be extremely different from one country to another.
“We are also working with different research entities in Canada. There are multiple research activities and interactions occurring and we want to support them. We have done work with Laval University, McGill University, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), which has opened a new research center in Newfoundland. A lot of these researchers are using our products or are consulting with us.”
Emphasis on lighting technology
One of Hort Americas major product categories is horticultural lighting.
“We are offering a strong expertise in horticultural lighting,” Goulet said. “Canada is located in the northern hemisphere. The need for supplemental lighting during the short days of winter is critical to growing crops year round.
“The expertise and services offered by Hort Americas for supplemental lighting include mapping and project management. A lot of the work we do with growers is to integrate lighting solutions with the structure and other technology providers on a given greenhouse project.”
Goulet said much of the lighting technology for CEA is currently developed in Europe to meet the needs of the growers there.
“The situation with Hort Americas in North America is totally different than the European countries,” he said. “Working with Current, which is Ohio-based and has an office in Montreal, provides Hort Americas the advantage of working with a local technology developer which has a horticultural light manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Because of Current’s manufacturing capabilities and understanding the local legislation and/or building codes this is an advantage for growers in the United States and Canada.”
The LED horticulture technology is evolving rapidly for the CEA industry in terms of cultivation systems and best practices.
“Hort Americas being close to Current’s office is great for fast-tracking product development,” Goulet said. “We can work with Current to engineer samples for a specific customer request. Customers can then run trials in their production environment to confirm the results and then determine the integration with the rest of their production systems. The Current engineers call this practice rapid prototyping.
“Other lighting manufacturers don’t have a similar relationship with their distributors. These lighting companies create products and push them to the market. Smaller lighting manufacturers will make their sales directly to the growers and they won’t have a partnership with a distributor.”
Hort Americas has an experienced team in Canada available to work with growers on the different utility rebates available throughout the country.
“This applies mostly to the integration of LED horticultural lighting and HVAC systems,” Goulet said. “Hort Americas is one of the few companies that understand the process of growing plants in a building.
“We can assist growers in finding the appropriate energy grants, R&D grants, innovation grants or financing programs. The earlier Hort Americas is brought into a project the more we can help to secure those financial leverages for growers.”
For more: Hort Americas Canada, Canada@hortamericas.com; https://hortamericas.ca/.
This article is property of Hort Americas and was written by David Kuack, a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas.