Bill Brar, co-owner of Canadian Valley Growers in Aldergrove, is paving the way for plant producers with a time-saving expansion into LED lighting that knocks his lettuce growing time down by 30 per cent.
Established in 1991 on a small, five acre site, the company has grown to its current two-million square feet of greenhouse space, covering 42 acres.
There, more than 120 different floral varieties, 40 different veggies including tomatoes, basil – plus 15 acres worth of peppers – are growing at Canadian Valley.
Brar said what sets his company apart is their wave of technological advancements that are not only altering the way plants are grown, but the speed at which they sprout.
“We want to be veggie central,” he said, though Brar explained that he fell into the business at a young age.
He believes vegetable gardening is a great way to get the next generation involved in gardening and maybe take more interest in farming.
“I like to think we’re in a bit of a planting and gardening renaissance right now. Everyone is planting, because it’s safe and rewarding,” he explained.
During a tour, Brar plucked a single plug of an impatiens sprout from hundreds in a carton, which he said got assembled that way solely by machines.
The bulk of Canadian Valley’s irrigation at its pepper site on Bradner Road comes from recycled rainwater.
But by far the biggest advancement is a new Signify lighting system installed last year.
“We grow butter lettuce, multi-leaf lettuce, and teen leaf [smaller, younger leaf] lettuce, and produce about 50,000 heads every week,” Brar explained.
That’s achieved by the Phillips LEDs hanging from the greenhouse ceilings. Seedlings spend two and a half weeks under lights for propagation and then another month in their greenhouses in Maple Ridge.
“It’s helps save energy, cuts down on crop times, and improves the actual look of the plant,” Brar explained. “[It’s] a better plant with heavier root mass and better colour.”
Brar replaced high-pressure sodium lighting with the LEDs, which provide a more intense lighting at 220 micro moles during propagation and 110 micro moles at the plant’s finish. It’s a relatively new and underutilized method in the Fraser Valley.
“Support from Signify with the LEDs, which was a learning curve, has been great,” Brar said, adding the system will likely expand through the greenhouse to grow other veggies and plants.
The finished products from Canadian Valley Growers would have formerly ended up at big box stores, and home and garden centres, but yet another advancement for Brar will be a way to reach consumers directly.
“Ninety per cent of what is sold there is grown here,” Brar explained, noting May is when labour is at its absolute highest peak for his company because of skyrocketing plant sales.
“When you think about that, it’s not the month either. It’s four weekends – eight days. Eight days to sell your product. And if one of those days is rainy, no ones coming out to buy.”
Regardless of pressures or weather, Brar is pleased with the greenhouse advancements and is eager to continue to grow his business.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved,” he added.
More information can be found at canadianvalleygrowers.ca.
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