With an entire growing season wrapped up, we reflect on major accomplishments, learning opportunities, and what lies ahead…
As was reported in our first and second chapters, the partnership between Allegro Acres and Sollum Technologies led to the first successful winter growing season for large-scale commercial greenhouse peppers in Canada. The significance of this accomplishment cannot be understated. Producing local peppers during colder winter months provides an invaluable means of adapting to a changing climate as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that increasing temperatures will drastically decrease fruit and vegetable yields. Now looking back at this first project phase, we highlight and discuss the key takeaways from this experience.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Taking the Heat
Some producers struggled to accommodate the unpredictable temperatures that defined the 2021 growing season. While the highest temperature in Canadian history was reached in British Columbia, in northwestern Ontario, heat waves were experienced just days apart from nights that were almost cold enough to cause frost. Apple orchards in Ottawa struggled with a cold spring and dry summer, with some farmers describing yields as their worst yet. Heading into fall, pumpkin farmers across the country blamed “extreme weather” for a lack-luster harvest. With more unpredictable weather on the horizon due to climate change, the winter pepper production that was accomplished at Allegro Acres sets a necessary precedent for varying growing schedules in Canadian agriculture.
Sollum’s smart LED lighting solution makes it possible for producers to grow any type of crop regardless of their native climate and the location of their greenhouse. What this past year has taught us is that, as important as it is to empower producers to experiment with growing new crops and varieties, it is also critical that we give them the tools they need to consistently meet the demands of their consumers in a changing climate and in a changing world. With Allegro Acres, we saw how shifting from summer to winter production allowed the peppers to reach peak production before undesirably high temperatures were experienced. Our first season of winter pepper production definitely entailed a learning curve, which our dynamic lighting capabilities allowed us to harness to successfully bring winter peppers to the market and set even higher goals for the next season; this gives us the confidence that our technology will allow other producers to find success in their journey for food sustainability in great respect for the environment.
The Future Is Bright!
Our story with Allegro Acres is far from over. For the coming season we will be tripling our production area, and planting has already begun – a month earlier than the previous year. Different pepper varieties will be grown, and the growing environment will be adapted with new control measures such as a misting system to better manage humidity and light abatement curtains to better isolate light treatments. It will be exciting to see how these changes interact with one another and how they affect pepper yield and quality.
Our partnership with the Harrow Research and Development Center of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will also continue. They play a critical role in data collection and analysis which helps us provide concrete evidence to support our advocacy for sustainable, local, and year-round agriculture. They also help us analyze other metrics such as energy consumption, which we predict will be further reduced as we continue to optimize our lighting solutions to suit producers’ specific needs.
We hope you will continue to follow us as we head into the next phase of our adventure with Allegro Acres!
This project is supported, in part, through the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative, a cost-share program funded by the Ontario Government and delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council, on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
About Sustainable Development Technology Canada
Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) helps Canadian companies develop and deploy competitive, clean technology solutions, to help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges: climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil. By taking a cross-Canada approach, from seed to scale, and in partnership with the best peers and experts, SDTC is the global benchmark for sustainable development innovation programming. Learn more at sdtc.ca