At Great Northern Hydroponics, a 70-acre tomato growing facility in Kingsville (Ontario), Canada, they have discovered that the Plant Empowerment philosophy not only boosts their annual yield per square metre, but also improves product quality and shelf life. In fact, thanks to these and various other benefits, Great Northern turns ambitions into reality thanks to Plant Empowerment – as Guido van het Hof (President and General Manager) and Dean Bernardes (VP Operations) explain in this video.
Plant Empowerment philosophy helps
Great Northern to expand and diversify
Great Northern Hydroponics in Kingsville (Ontario), Canada, is a 70-acre greenhouse operation known for its wide assortment of tomato specialities, ranging from cocktail tomatoes to grape tomatoes and mini San Marzano’s. The company has been working in line with the Plant Empowerment philosophy for around three years. The team have been so impressed by the results that they are now diversifying into strawberries based on the same principles.
Make decisions based on parameters and measurements
In the quest to deliver the best quality tomatoes to customers, the team at Great Northern Hydroponics are striving to achieve the perfect integration between horticulture and technology, using techniques that are environmentally sustainable and responsible. Approximately three years ago, this mission led to the decision to implement the Plant Empowerment philosophy: a revolutionary, sustainable and profitable cultivation method that brings together the worlds of both plant physiology and physics.
This data-driven approach revolves around the precise sensor-based monitoring and objective analysis of the plants’ energy, water and assimilates balances as they grow. As a result, crop management strategies and decisions are based on reliable real-time insights into what’s best for the plants at that particular time, rather than gut instincts. “We go by the parameters and measurements that we get back out of the greenhouse and make decisions based on that,” explains Guido van het Hof, President and General Manager of Great Northern.
The company’s implementation of the Plant Empowerment principles coincided with the transition to a new IIVO process computer supplied by Hoogendoorn, one of the six Sustainable Integrated Growing Solutions (SIGS) partners. All six partners work together as a multidisciplinary team to provide advice and guidance to growers who value extra support when adopting the Plant Empowerment philosophy. “The planning, manpower, knowledge and background of the people involved in the conversion… I was very pleased with that whole process,” adds Guido.
Better yield, quality and shelf life
Analysis had shown that growing in accordance with the Plant Empowerment principles could enable Great Northern to achieve 5% more yield per square metre. The actual increase in production turned out to be even greater than expected – and a higher yield has not been the only benefit, according to Dean Bernardes, VP Operations at Great Northern: “We also see better quality fruits and an improvement on shelf life.”
Roadmap to sustainable and profitable horticulture
The application of data-driven growing techniques, including the latest advancements such as artificial intelligence, speeds up the learning curve for young growers, experienced growers and consultants alike, which helps horticultural companies to cope with the talent shortage.
“Plant Empowerment has accommodated our organization’s desire to expand our footprint without necessarily expanding the decision-making team,” states Guido. He is so convinced of the advantages of Plant Empowerment that all team members are receiving training in the philosophy to support further implementation – and the response has been very positive.
“The biggest benefit for us as experienced growers is that it teaches us the ‘real’ way of growing – you just have to understand it and follow the science,” explains Dean. Moreover, thanks to the focus on exchanging new insights on sustainable cultivation within the Plant Empowerment community, growers and researchers can continue to learn from one another and contribute to the further development of this roadmap to sustainable and profitable horticulture worldwide.
Curious for more?
Want to learn more about the principles of Plant Empowerment? You can follow our ten-part online course “The power of integrated solutions”, where specialists will address common issues faced by growers around the world on a daily basis, such as challenges relating to a homogeneous climate, cracked fruits or an active and healthy root system. More information