With the construction of a 52-acre greenhouse operation in Virginia on schedule, JemD Farms is poised to enter the organic vegetable arena in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The Kingsville, Ontario-based grower-shipper, which has greenhouses in Canada and Mexico, will be able to access two-thirds of the U.S. population within 10 hours from its Dublin, Va., greenhouse complex, said Harold Paivarinta, director of sales and business development.

“The site will also feature our newest warehouse and distribution facility,” Paivarinta said.

“Not only will we reduce food miles to our existing customer base, we will enter a market in need of an organic greenhouse program much closer than current supply options.”

Phase 1 of the project includes 17 acres and is expected to be planted in the fall. Paivarinta said JemD has been running trials for two years with different growth media, seed varieties and organic fertilizers in preparation for the organic acres.

He said if retail and foodservice response to the organic vegetable line is strong enough Phases 2 and 3 of the greenhouse complex could also be dedicated to organic production.

JemD expects Phase 2, which includes 17 acres, to be producing vegetables in 2015, with the 18 acres of Phase 3 anticipated to begin production in 2016. The greenhouses in Virginia are an example of how far technology in the sector has come in the past decade, Paivarinta said.

Greenhouses now are vastly more energy efficient than ones built a decade ago, he said.

“We continue to build new acreage and it seems like there’s cutting edge, efficiency-driven technology available to us with each expansion project when we break ground.”

Advances in packaging technology are also on tap for the 2014 season at JemD Farms.

Paivarinta said the company’s new grape tomato modified-atmosphere packaging bag is an example of packaging technology extending the shelf life and flavor of the produce it contains.

“It’s a 10-ounce grab-and-go bag that’s resealable,” he said. “Studies indicate there’s a direct correlation between flavor and moisture loss (for tomatoes). Modified-atmosphere packaging slows moisture loss, thus prolonging flavor attributes.”

The bags have handles that make stocking the produce aisle easier, as well as carrying the produce home.

In addition to adding the modified-atmosphere packaging, JemD has been conducting tests with top-seal packaging technology from Europe, Paivarinta said.

The benefits of top seal packaging have been well documented, he said, and JemD’s North American retailer partners are excited about it.

“You should see several top seal pack offerings from Red Sun Farms in 2014 if everything proceeds as planned,” Paivarinta said.

Advantages to the top-seal containers include less plastic than clamshells and increased food security provided in tamper-proof lidding film, he said, adding that JemD thinks top-seal film will be the standard within the next five years.