Profile of the Greenhouse Industry in Alberta

Executive Summary

In 2014, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) in collaboration with Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association (AGGA) conducted a survey to gather current benchmark data on greenhouse crop operations in Alberta. The results show that presently there are 230 greenhouse operations in Alberta. Of the 230 greenhouse operations, 180 completed the survey questionnaire; a response rate of approximately 78 per cent. Data from the remaining 50 growers were gathered through general business information and directories. Institutional facilities of approximately 3.56 acres were not included in the total area. This is the most comprehensive survey of the greenhouse industry in Alberta.

gf2 logo medAlberta’s greenhouse industry is ranked fourth in the country after Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Based on the recent survey, the present size of Alberta’s greenhouse crops industry is estimated to be 338 acres, 137 ha, 14.74 million square feet (ft2) or 1.37 million square metres (m2). The land associated with greenhouse farming is estimated at 8,294 acres or 2,714 ha. Vegetable accounted for about 46 per cent of the total greenhouse area (157 acres), followed by floriculture at 41 per cent or 137 acres and tree seedlings at 13 per cent or 45 acres. Greenhouse institutional facilities of approximately 3.56 acres are not included in the total area.

The greenhouse area in the province is divided into ten regions, ranging from Region 1 (Fort McMurray) to Region 10 (Lethbridge). Compared to the 2010 survey results, the maximum growth in greenhouse area occurred in the Medicine Hat area that includes Redcliff (from 41 per cent in 2010 to 45 per cent in 2014). Area under 10,000 ft2 increased from 24 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2014, while area over 40,000 ft2 decreased to 32 per cent from 36 per cent in 2010. Double poly greenhouses accounted for about 85 per cent of total area followed by glass at 13 per cent. Approximately 36 per cent of greenhouses are year-round and 64 per cent are seasonal in nature. The industry employs over 1,600 full-time and over 2,500 part-time workers. Growers have used federal and provincial government programs to bring in foreign workers.

Natural gas continued to be the fuel of choice for heating greenhouses. No major shift has occurred in the use of alternate fuel like coal, wood or others. Based on survey responses, average heating cost in 2014 was estimated at $12.54 per sq. m. or 1.16 per sq. ft. This translates to total greenhouse industry heating expenditure of approximately $17.17 million. While use of personal computers (57 per cent) was similar to the 2010 survey results, use of environmental control computers increased slightly. Ninety-three per cent of growers were aware of environmentally friendly crop management practices and are changing in that direction. Eighty-five per cent of growers do recycle plastic materials and compost their plant material. About 30 per cent practice On Farm Food Safety and 28 per cent have taken Environmental Farm Plan courses.

The majority of growers are anticipating business threats such as higher energy costs, markets/prices, labour shortages, import competition, taxes and regulation and currency fluctuations in the next three to five years. Growers indicated that in the next three to five years the buy local movement, non-traditional products, organic or green products and export markets would serve as opportunities for expansion. Majority of the growers surveyed are aware of AGGA and its services. Other comments, issues and concerns provided by survey participants are listed in Appendix I and the survey questionnaire is presented in Appendix II.

The project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.