How BC Greenhouses Are Helping Sri Lanka’s Environmental Problem

March 1, 2017

windfarm

(Photo from BC Greenhouse Growers Association)

Raise your hand if you love to eat picked-at-their-peak-of-ripeness, fresh local veggies, which are grown by farmers using biological controls such as ladybugs rather than chemical methods whenever possible, are herbicide-free AND have helped solve a growing environmental problem in Sri Lanka.

If you’re now wildly waving both arms in the air, then you need to be choosing BC greenhouse grown veggies.   I’m excited to announce that the first of the much-beloved BC Long English cucumbers are already in season and at the market, with the colorful tomatoes, bell and mini peppers and mini cucumbers not far behind.

As is often the case, people tend to overlook treasures in their own backyard, and BC Greenhouse grown veggies might be one gem you’ve not valued highly enough.  These BC farmers are quietly using a variety of innovative, high-tech and sustainable cutting edge technologies to grow our food. By using soil-less bags with drip irrigation in protected indoor environments, weed issues requiring herbicides are eliminated and pest problems are controlled whenever possible by employing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.  This “good bugs fighting bad bugs” technology has made  British Columbia greenhouse growers world leaders in IPM.

As well, our Fraser Valley’s moderate winters and comfortable summers make our province one of the best North American locations for greenhouses. By careful monitoring of temperatures, the buildings utilize high-efficiency, clean-burning natural gas to heat only when necessary in order to maintain a productive 10-month growing season. Utilizing the same system, water is heated during the day, stored in large tanks and pumped throughout the greenhouse to heat during the cooler evening temperatures. The stable temperatures maintained within the greenhouses also ensure a consistent high quality year-round.  Products are picked and packaged at 90% optimal ripeness and shipped with little intervention – no waxing or ethylene ripening required.

But for me, the Sri Lankan connection is the fun part of the story. Being a top coconut exporter, the island nation faced a problem of how to dispose of all the husks and were burning the waste, causing an increasing environmental crisis. Meanwhile, greenhouse growers were looking for more efficient ways to grow their plants and identified that shredded coco fiber husks were the ideal medium. The “soil” perfectly allows the roots to freely spread and take in the nutrients needed for optimal growth.  After years of trial and error, a unique win-win relationship between greenhouse growers and Sri Lankan coconut exporters has developed.

BC’s 42 greenhouse growers, employing over 3,000 people are providing us with the freshest, crunchiest veggies grown right in our backyard, and there’s no better time than at the end of this snowy winter to say thanks for giving us our first flavourful taste of the local produce season!