LEAMINGTON, Ontario — A few years ago, greenhouse growers, especially, were singing the woes of high gas prices.
Growers trying to maintain heat in multi-acre growing facilities were looking to oil, pellets — anything they could safely burn — as alternatives to natural gas. Now, with prices backing off, most are heavy into natural gas again.
Natural gas is down 30% to 40% from what it was a couple of years ago, said Ron Lapos, president of Kingsville-based Special Edition Marketing.
“We use three different energies, but mainly natural gas,” said Mark Slater, co-owner of Erie James Ltd. “We also have the ability to burn wood pellets or coal if we wish to, but natural gas is our energy of choice.”
James Cornies, owner of Cornies Farms Ltd., Kingsville, said energy costs are a little lower than last year because the price of natural gas has come down, but that December has been dark, making it necessary to heat the greenhouses.
“But we could have real good light in January, and that makes up for December,” Cornies said.
In addition to natural gas, Cornies Farms is equipped with a biomass boiler that can burn any solid fuel, such as wood and coal, Cornies said.
Once approved by the Canadian government, Mucci International Marketing Inc. is equipped with a garbage pellet burning facility.
“We are the only greenhouse grower that has a garbage pellet burning facility, and it takes tons and tons of garbage out of landfills,” said Sandra Dick, marketing coordinator.
The system is going through environmental testing now, and should be approved by mid-year, Dick said.
“The waste product of this pellet is an ash, which is used in the coloring of cement, so it doesn’t have to go back in the ground,” Dick said.
The company is equipped to burn demolition wood, scrap pellets and natural gas.
“Still, the cost of production is higher than it’s ever been, and the returns are lower than they’ve ever been,” said Tom Coufal, salesman for Lakeside Produce.
“Labor costs are going up, minimum wage is going up, and we’ve still got to have people who know what they’re doing.”