Arguably, when Cytech Corbin’s greenhouse control specialist Denis Lavoie attended Plant Empowerment’s two-day workshop in Leamington – Canada’s “tomato capital” – the timing could not have been better. The workshop was just a month after the official opening of Cytech Corbin’s new Brillo demonstration greenhouse – whose management strategy features the Plant Empowerment principles at its core.
Cytech Corbin’s Brillo demonstration greenhouse
The demonstration greenhouse in Montmagny, Quebec, Canada, saw a typical greenhouse transformed into a 500m2 state-of-the-art, semi-closed system which sustainably produces vine, cherry, and beefsteak tomatoes. The project came into fruition shortly after Cytech Corbin – a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company – became Quebec’s representative for Hoogendoorn, one of the Implementation Partners of Plant Empowerment.
Lavoie is an integral part of the project. He “wears two hats” – one as the co-owner of the greenhouse itself, and another as the ventilation director and specialist in greenhouse control at Cytech Corbin. Lavoie explains:
“Since the beginning of the project, we’ve applied the Plant Empowerment concept because it makes sense, all the way.”
Plant Empowerment: “Exactly the right direction”
The Plant Empowerment philosophy focuses on cultivating greenhouse crops sustainably by ensuring that the plants have an optimal balance of energy, water, and assimilates (sugar). This produces stronger, healthier crops that are less susceptible to pests and diseases.
The grower was introduced to this philosophy when he started working with Hoogendoorn. He recalls: “When I began to read the book ‘Plant Empowerment, The Basic Principles’ everything made sense. I knew that was exactly the direction in which we wanted to go – growing not by a sense or a feeling of what is right for the plants but by data-based calculations – mathematics.”
Lavoie admits that he is still busy gaining a greater understanding of the Plant Empowerment philosophy.
“It’s a big thing to learn. I started by being aware of some aspects of it but now I’m going further into it – trying to learn about each aspect and asking myself: ‘What can I do to make the growing regime a little bit better?’”
With this continuing goal in mind, the workshop helped Lavoie to both deepen his knowledge of Plant Empowerment and gain confidence in growing according to its principles.
About the Plant Empowerment workshop in Canada
Many subjects were covered during the busy two day workshop in Leamington, including data analysis, climate screens, substrates, and plant health. “I would 100% recommend the workshop to other people if they hold another one. Everything was interesting – so much so that we could probably have taken two days to cover each subject.”
“But the purpose of this workshop was not to make us an expert on each topic; rather, it was to make us aware of the importance of, and give us confidence in, the Plant Empowerment philosophy so that we could then continue learning, and applying it, outside of the classroom.”
Enlightened with his newfound knowledge learned during the workshop and through his continued studies of the philosophy, the grower happily reports that he did not have to treat his last tomato crop for any pests and diseases.
“I didn’t have to treat my last crop because the plants were so healthy. I used nothing at all – it’s been pretty amazing.”
Reducing food miles
The Brillo demonstration greenhouse is frequently visited by other growers, who are inspired by the Plant Empowerment philosophy. Many of them are local to Quebec – a region of Canada that is aiming to produce more of its own food.
Clearly, Lavoie is successfully helping to achieve this aim because the greenhouse’s tomatoes are sold to grocery stores within a 100 km radius of the site. “I had an objective to produce 80 kilos per square meter and we’ve been producing 90 kilos per square meter since the beginning of the venture,” says Lavoie proudly.
Technology in the semi-closed greenhouse
Being a semi-closed greenhouse, Lavoie and the team are, when necessary, able to mix the greenhouse air with air from outside to better dehumidify and ventilate the indoor climate. And to further aid the sustainable production of profitable and high-quality crops, the Brillo demonstration greenhouse utilizes the latest information-collecting technologies.
Part of the Plant Empowerment philosophy is to continually collect data during the plant’s life cycle. This is to give growers valuable insights into the growing environment and the performance of the plants. The greenhouse’s technologies include cameras and thermal imaging cameras to take pictures of the crop, and scales that weigh the crop’s dry matter. Another of its features is Hoogendoorn’s Aquabalance – a sensor that weighs the substrates and therefore helps determine the plant’s water requirements.
The demonstration greenhouse also utilizes the data platform from LetsGrow.com – another Plant Empowerment implementation partner. This sees data on all aspects of the greenhouse processed into handy visuals and information for the grower.
A growing community
In addition to showing fellow growers around Brillo, Lavoie is busily inspiring other growers through his role at Cytech Corbin – applying the Plant Empowerment philosophy to new greenhouse installation projects. He says:
“To every single customer who wants to start a new greenhouse, I recommend this book all the way.”
“both to those who are new to growing or to those who are experienced growers. But they have to have an open mind because its recommendations may be different to what people are used to.”
He concludes: “Plant Empowerment speaks to me because, in my opinion, it’s the way everything should be grown – not just tomatoes, but any greenhouse crop. Because when you understand every aspect of the plant you can read it and it ‘speaks’ to you. And, if you can understand what the plants are saying, then you can make them happy – and they are happy to produce a crop.”
Join one of our courses
Are you interested in learning more about the basic principles of Plant Empowerment? Especially for growers and other horticultural professionals, we’re offering several online courses and workshops which focus on sharing knowledge on the Plant Empowerment philosophy and how to put this knowledge into practice. Plant Empowerment top experts will address new insights around the Plant Empowerment theory in the areas of climate, plant balances, lighting, nutrition, plant health, and pest management
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