Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, hydroponic lettuce, berries, eggplant and even figs: the variety of fruits and vegetables produced in Quebec greenhouses is growing.
So much so, the province will likely exceed its food autonomy target for this produce, according to the province’s greenhouse growers.
“The craze for buying local [during the pandemic] allowed our producers to take their place, to make a little cash and to be able to invest in the future,” said André Mousseau, president of Quebec’s Greenhouse Producers (PSQ) union.
“Then, at the same time, the ministry decided to invest,” he said.
In November 2020, Quebec Agriculture Minister André Lamontagne, along with then Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonatan Julien, announced more than $100 million to double the size of Quebec’s greenhouse operations by 2025 — totalling 250 hectares. This goal was coupled with a program to expand the electrical network adapted to rural areas.
The product of this investment can be found on Quebecers’ grocery shelves and plates, according to Mousseau.
Hovering around 30 per cent in 2020, the province has now reached 50 per cent self-sufficiency for greenhouse-grown vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, he said, though the union is aiming to push that number up to 80 per cent.
Mousseau says at least a quarter of greenhouse growers have applied to the government for expansions of their operations, and, according to him, the 2025 target of 250 hectares will likely be exceeded.
In addition to funding for greenhouse expansion, all producers have access to up to 40 per cent in reimbursements from the government on certain electricity expenses.
Energy costs for greenhouse production are high, says Mousseau. By using heat pumps and closely monitored lighting, growers are trying to lower their bills.
According to lawyer Geneviève Parent, holder of the legal research chair in food diversity and security at Laval University, the energy costs related to greenhouse production remain an extremely important factor to consider in order to achieve food autonomy.
“This is where we have a little work to do, at this level.”
Parent believes greenhouses are part of the solution for food autonomy and she says Quebec is well positioned in this area, particularly in terms of science and knowledge in the field.
This content was originally published here.