Mucci Farms, a pioneer in growing strawberries under glass, is claiming top place in North America with its recently opened $12 million second phase. The original investment of $24 million was so successful in terms of agronomics and customer demand that expansion is moving swiftly.
“Mucci Farms can proudly say we are putting Kingsville, Ontario, on the map for having the largest strawberry greenhouse not only in Canada but in North America,” says Joe Spano, a vice-president of sales and marketing.
In 2018, the company expects to add 12 acres to the existing 24 acres of strawberries. The pristine white piping contributes to an other-worldly experience, especially when artificial lighting is turned on. Negotiating a lower electricity price was key in expanding. The plan is to concentrate strawberry growing in Kingsville, and not to new facilities outside of Canada.
The current phases also include the use of diffused glass which reduces stress on the plants by providing even sunlight. High-pressure fogging systems cool down the greenhouse in the hotter months. A swing gutter system allows for the amount of maximum plants per square meter.
The greenhouse-grown fruit is called Smuccies Sweet Strawberries. They are retailed at a range of $4.99 to $5.99 for a 12-ounce clamshell. The competitive advantage is that no pesticides are used and flavour compares with field-grown. Furthermore, it’s a crop that can be grown year-round.
Building expertise in greenhouse strawberries is a new endeavor, expanding the range of products from greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Since partnering with Dutch growers Ton Bastiaansen and Joost van Oers in January 2016, Mucci Farms has seen accelerated growth and a greater demand for greenhouse-grown strawberries.
"Overwhelming, is the best way I can describe how our Smuccies are being received,” says Spano. “Super sweet, clean, on the shelf within 24 hours of harvest and grown in an environment that is unaffected by inclement weather.”
The product has received accolades from multiple industry associations for best packaging, best new fruit and best kid-centric product. At the recent Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Conference and Expo in New Orleans, the company won the Kids’ Choice Award for its Smuccies Layered Strawberry and Mango Dip.