As an answer to the growing demand of responsibly produced greenhouse grown cucumbers, Vine Fresh acres of Ruthven, Ontario, broke ground on a 12.5 acre greenhouse in August last year. This 12.5 acre greenhouse currently is producing its first crop with high wire cucumbers that are sold under the Nature Fresh Farms brand. Head grower and operations manager Jake Neufeld of Vine Fresh Acres was so kind to tour us around their brand new operation.
Vine Fresh Acres is a relatively new name in Canada’s greenhouse vegetable industry; their 12.5 acre operation in Leamington is their first greenhouse. But that doesn’t mean that they are not familiar with greenhouses at all; the Neufelds are the founders of the renowned family business Ruthven Greenhouse Construction Ltd. Since the year 2000, they have been providing value-added greenhouse construction services to the North American greenhouse industry.
When the Neufeld’s founded their sister company Vine Fresh Acres in August 2014, they soon started to break ground for their first cucumber greenhouse. Eventually the company is looking to expand to a total of 34 acres on the location at Essex Road 14 in Leamington.
The greenhouse complex is a structure from South Essex Fabricating and is completely constructed by Ruthven Greenhouse Construction. What makes the project extra interesting is that Ridder took full ownership of the growing part of the project delivery, with support of its local partner Acrobat Projects. Therefore the complete integration of the Ridder crop growing products, and electrical and water technical installations have been engineered starting with the anticipated crop productivity in mind first. Furthermore the entire project was delivered and installed within the guidelines of UL/CSA by local electricians.
When we visited Vine Fresh Acres, we learned that Jake Neufeld is a forward thinking grower as he implemented some very advanced state of the art technology inside his greenhouse. One of those is the ProDrain irrigation system from Ridder; a very keen and precise irrigation control system that allows the grower to optimise his watering and cultivation strategy to achieve the highest productivity at all times. Neufeld is currently the first grower in Southern Ontario that adopted ProDrain.
“Better yield predicitions, and therefore we increase our efficiency and workflow.”
ProDrain continuously measures the plant weight and substrate weight, allowing Neufeld to accurately monitor various key growth factors, like the water content in the substrate and the amount of the drain water. “In the computer I can see exactly how the crop is reacting. We can see our draining cycles precisely, and our irrigation strategy almost fully relies on the outcome that we see from the ProDrain measurements.”
Neufeld: “Thanks to ProDrain we also see how much the crop evaporates, and we can easily prevent our slabs from drying out, avoiding under or oversaturation in our grow bags at all times. Next to this the ProDrain is in connection with all of the other Ridder automation, so weather influences also now have a direct effect on our irrigation strategy, for example when the sun radiation increases, the computer will be prepared and will give an extra irrigation shot sooner.”
Another added benefit from the ProDrain installation is that Neufeld can also see the accurate production of his crop. “It does not only measure the irrigation, outflow and weight of the slab, but also the weight of the 20 plants between the two posts. This enables us to predict our production very precisely, we even can see how much the plant produces per hour. It helps us to make better harvest forecasts, and we increase our efficiency and workflow.”
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