A sustainability-minded greenhouse grower
Allegro Acres is a greenhouse grower located in Kingsville, Ontario, a region of Canada known for the nucleus of greenhouses operating in the area that represents the bulk of Ontarian greenhouse output and the presence of the Kraft Heinz Company until 2014.
Founded by Gene Ingratta and his family, the operation is the latest outgrowth of a family history in the industry that started with the owner’s grandparents, who immigrated to Canada some 60 years ago. Today, the third generation of Ingratta growers are attuned to eco-friendly practices such as bee pollination, hydroponic growing, water recirculation, energy conservation, insect netting for pest control, and LED technology that extends the seasonality and profitability of operations.
A bold endeavor on a large scale
From an operational perspective, the only production factor that could not be controlled in Allegro’s greenhouses was the lighting, the essential component of growing produce in winter. Gene Ingratta learned about Sollum’s unique smart LED technology through Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) as Sollum was seeking a partner in Ontario. He was impressed and intrigued by Sollum’s approach of reproducing the full spectrum of the Sun’s natural light cycle with unparalleled accuracy. It allows growers to recreate the native light conditions for any produce, regardless of the location of their greenhouse.
“To begin with, we knew that growing peppers is more complex than tomatoes or cucumbers,” said Gene Ingratta, responsible for the project. “We made the bold move by starting with the cultivation of several varieties of red, yellow and orange bell peppers during the winter on 4 acres of greenhouses by using the most innovative LED technology available on the market. This had never been accomplished with peppers on such a scale, anywhere.”
Making it happen
Allegro team members worked with the entire Sollum team (including R&D, programmers, and engineers) to identify the best lighting approach to deliver optimal lighting uniformity, intensity and light recipe design. Sollum’s team designed a new fixture model for the project and installed over 5300 units, which enabled it to secure financial aid from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. It developed 3 light recipes based on the winter solstice Sun. In developing light recipes specific to individual crop species, the Sollum team actually took part in the development of a whole new branch of science.
A successful harvest
Allegro Acres planted peppers in October and harvest started in December 2020. The first harvest was successfully sold in grocery stores, as were the harvests that followed. Peppers will continue to be planted and harvested for the coming year at Allegro Acres.
Thanks to Sollum’s SUN as a Service® platform, the Allegro team will be able to modulate their lighting in real-time, as seasons change, and as they experience how the ambient lighting affects growth on a daily basis.
Looking to the future
This first large-scale cultivation of winter peppers in a greenhouse using LEDs was also monitored by, among others, the Harrow Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri Food Canada. It is tasked with analyzing the data collected throughout, including metrics such as yield, produce qualities and growth as well as energy consumption. The data contributes to strengthening the case for supply chain, consumer-driven, sustainable, lucrative, and locally sourced produce all year long.
Stay tuned for more, as this story is just getting started.
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.
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