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“It’s a dream come true,” says Dusty Zamecnik, general manager, EZ Grow Farms, Langton, Ontario, of the 18.5 acre glasshouse now propagating strawberry plants for greenhouse and high tunnel growers across North America. The capacity is for 15 million-plus plants annually. 


What sets this facility apart is that it is one-of-a-kind in Canada with proximity to the 500 acres of greenhouse strawberries in the Leamington, Ontario area. Built by South Essex Fabricating, it integrates several high-tech features in one facility: the Growtec hoisting gutter system, the Robur robotic boom, and MJ Tech’s high-pressure fogging system. Together these technologies allow for broader delivery window from June to November  and flexibility in genetic choices. There are 33 new varieties available. 


“Last week it was 36°C outside,” says Zamecnik, “but through our environmental control systems, we were able to keep the temperature at 30°C indoors. Misting lowers the temperatures. We’re keen to keep the plants in a generative state.”


The sprawling facility has 72 zones, each with a Robur robotic boom, for precise watering according to need. Sensors detect temperature and humidity, triggering automatic watering for the fledgling daughter plants which grow in a proprietary tray mix.  


The glasshouse operation uses about 1.4 million litres of water per day of which 400,000 litres are used for high-pressure fogging. The ozone-treated water ensures there are no pathogens. Water is collected from the roof and stored in a retention pond before re-use.


Clients keen to source these plants must think about ordering almost one year in advance. It’s a long process from variety choice to delivery. For those wanting a heads-up on taste, the Ed Zamecnik Berry Testing Center showcases three high-tunnel types with various gutter positions. Depending on production practices, the final berry may taste different. The Albion variety is still a standard but may be eclipsed by new varieties in time.  The testing center pays homage to the grandfather that started it all in the 1930s. 


“As much as we talk about the high-tech elements, there are still some basic principles,” says Zamecnik. “We put plants and people first. That’s why we strive to be the trusted source of strawberry propagation plants.”


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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 28 June 2024