(Dec. 26) A Canadian greenhouse vegetable grower-shipper is attempting to strengthen its production base in the U.S. while trimming expenses.

Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce Ltd., looking to cut costs on logistics, has purchased a 10-acre greenhouse facility once occupied by the now-defunct Midwest Greenhouse LLC in Maroa, Ill., said Paul Mastronardi, executive vice president.

The three-year-old, 46,000-square-foot greenhouse, which comes with a 15,000-square-foot warehouse, will serve Mastronardi Produce customers in the Midwest, Mastronardi said Dec. 19.

“It’s strategically wise,” said Mastronardi, who declined to specify which crops the company would grow in the facility or provide any volume projections. “It’s going to allow us to get to a lot of customers faster.”

Mastronardi Produce, a 52-year-old family-run company, currently has 800 acres of production of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers under glass. The company has distribution and production facilities in Ontario, Gothensburg, Neb.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Lakeland, Fla., and a distribution center in Romulus, Mich. The company also has been involved in Mexican greenhouse production for more than 20 years.

Midwest Greenhouse grew peppers in the central Illinois facility for one season, in 2004, after completing construction on the greenhouse in 2003.

Having failed to meet expectations in its first season, the company exited the business in September 2005, citing rising costs and falling pepper prices among its problems. The company began to look for a potential lessee or buyer for the property a short time later.

“It’s one of the highest-tech greenhouses in North America,” Mastronardi said, adding that his company had purchased the facility from a bank. “It has the most advanced growing equipment available.”

The first harvest will begin in the first quarter of 2007.

“It will start a little earlier than Leamington,” Mastronardi said.

Mastronardi ships product to all 50 states in the U.S.

Mastronardi hothouse marketers expand south
Before adding a 46,000-square-foot greenhouse once occupied by the now-defunct Midwest Greenhouse LLC, Mastronardi Produce had 800 acres of production of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers under glass, including this Leamington, Ontario, tomato operation.