DRUMMONDVILLE, Quebec — Greenhouse grower Demers Farms is building a $12 million, eco-friendly greenhouse in the Drummondville area.
When completed in July 2012, the eight-acre facility will be powered by biogas produced from a nearby landfill site, said general manager Jacques Demers, whose company is based in St. Nicholas. The site’s owner, Waste Management, has a 20-year contract with Hydro Quebec to produce electricity.
“In the process of producing electricity, there’s a lot of heat lost,” Demers said. “We’re planning to recover this energy to heat our greenhouse and produce tomatoes.”
Over 10 years, this “green” energy is the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road, he said. But first he has to get the facility up and running, a technical challenge that includes installing and synchronizing co-generators.
The veteran grower said market forces are driving him to expand.
“The industry has become more competitive with the Mexicans importing to Canada during the winter, when prices were historically high,” he said.
“With access to cheap energy, this project will give us a competitive advantage.”
At the moment, he said, nobody’s paying the environmental costs of transporting tomatoes to Canada.
“Once we have to pay the carbon costs, then we’ll be able to compete more effectively,” he said.
With artificial lighting, Demers’ new facility will produce his Trio Soleil of orange, yellow and red cocktail tomatoes and the roma-type Bella tomatoes year-round, he said, rather than 10 months a year.
Though the Bella is sweet and juicy, Demers said it’s tricky to get all eight to 10 fruits on each vine to ripen at the same time. Cloud and low temperatures in May slowed down the ripening and fruit development of all his tomatoes, he said, which will be felt in the market in July.
He said Quebecers have been good greenhouse tomato consumers for many years, and he thinks that they and the economy will force the Quebec industry to grow as much as it can locally for the next 10 years and into the future.