Profile of the Greenhouse Industry in Alberta

Executive Summary

The present size of the Alberta greenhouse crops industry is estimated to be 300 acres, 13.05 million ft2, 121.4 ha, or 1.23 million m2. The gross revenue estimated is at $ 150 million per annum, while investment revenue is around $ 270 million. It employs over 1,500 full-time and over 3,000 part-time people. It is a growth rate of 10.5% when compared to the last survey done in 2001. The land associated with greenhouse farming was 4,748.03 acres or 1,922 ha. The data is based on 328 growers which included 153 growers who responded to a larger survey, 47 growers who responded by phone to the shorter survey, and 128 growers whose data was gathered through general business information and directories. This is the most comprehensive survey of the greenhouse industry in Alberta. Institutional facilities of approximately 3.56 acres are not included in the total area.

The greenhouse area in the province was divided into ten regions ranging from
Fort McMurray to Lethbridge. It appeared that maximum growth occurred in the Medicine Hat region, from 32% in 2001 to 41% in 2010. This included industry expansion mostly in the Redcliff area.

There appeared to be a major shift in the average size of the greenhouse. Area under 10,000 ft2 dropped from 42% in 2001 to 24% in 2010, while over 40,000 ft2 area increased to 36% from 18% in 2001. This indicated that average economic size has increased during the past decade and the vegetable greenhouses likely influenced this trend.

Year-round greenhouses are 42%, while 58% are seasonal in nature. Labour usage increased to 1,500 full-time and over 3,000 part-time. Off shore labour came from Mexico, Thailand and the Caribbean, 45, 50 and 5%, respectively. Different federal and provincial government programs were being utilized for bringing in foreign workers. Growers expressed concerns that many times Labour Market Opinion (LMOs) takes too long and unnecessary delays occur. Also, many times the farming status of greenhouses is not understood by some decision makers in the system.

Natural gas continued to be the fuel of choice for heating greenhouses and no major shift occurred in the use of alternate fuel like coal, wood or others. Use of personal computers was almost the same as in 2001, which is 58% versus 56% while the use of environmental control computers increased slightly. Growers were very aware of environmentally friendly crop management practices (97%) and were changing in that direction. A high percentage of growers (79%) do recycle plastic materials and similar percentages compost their plant material. Forty percent (40%) practice On Farm Food Safety and 36% have taken Environmental Farm Plan courses.

The vegetable sector registered a 16% growth from 2008 to 2010 and played a leadership role in the expansion of the industry. The bedding plant and ornamental sector also expanded. Cut flowers acreage practically remained static with a loss of one grower in central Alberta.

A majority of the growers surveyed were aware of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association (AGGA) and its services. Survey participants provided many suggestions and comments to improve the Green Industry Show and Conference, the AGGA and government services (Appendix IV).

Funding from Agriculture and Food Council through Canadian Agriculture Adaptability (CAAP) is acknowledged.