Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, instead using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. At Great Northern Hydroponics, our tomato vines grow vertically in a controlled environment providing optimum growing conditions. We implement several best-practice strategies to produce top quality tomatoes and a sustainable environment.
To reduce our environmental footprint, all of our fertigation (fertilized irrigation) water remains in a closed loop system. As our contained fertigation water circulates, we use pasteurization technology to treat the nutrient solution which is then blended with fresh water and nutrients before being re-introduced to the plants.
Hydroponic farming allows us to plant rotating crops in the same spaces.
As one tomato crop gets close to the end of its lifecycle, a new crop can be planted in open slots spaced between the fully-grown plants. Our fertigation system allows us to send specialized nutrients to each crop independently, assuring that every plant receives exactly what it needs. Intercropping allows continuous growth so we can consistently provide quality products. We schedule our annual greenhouse-wide cleaning shutdown of the lighted greenhouse in the summer, while in the conventional greenhouse we clean and sanitize between crop cycles at the end of December to offset production periods and to ensure year-round production.
Light and Climate Control
Controlling the greenhouse environment produces premium tomatoes and cuts energy costs.
Our 50-acre conventional greenhouse is a “double poly” structure, meaning there are two layers of polyethenlene protecting the crops from outside weather conditions. We pump air between the layers to provide extra warmth and protection as-needed. This greenhouse takes advantage of our region’s bright sunny days to provide plenty of natural light.
Our 15-acre glass greenhouse has additional controls so we can grow crops year-round. In darker months, conventional high-pressure sodium light bulbs provide additional growing light and some residual heat, while LED lamps are used to interlight the crops, providing light at different heights throughout the plants. Dual energy screens installed above the crops help to both eliminate light pollution and trap heat inside the greenhouse for energy efficiency. Vertical fans circulate the warmed air throughout the plants.
At Great Northern Hydroponics, we implement a number of sustainable methods, including:
- Organic Plant Waste — To complete the natural cycle of our plants, we send all of our culls and organic waste to a bio-waste company, who composts our plant waste and converts it to energy for the community.
- Biological Pest Management — Biological control uses natural enemies to manage insect and mite pest populations. There are three types of natural enemies that are beneficial when used in greenhouse production: predators, parasitoids and pathogens.
- Natural Pollination — We can encourage natural fertilization by utilizing bees to pollinate our crops. Using bumblebees to pollinate plants inside the greenhouse is one way we improve crop quality and increase yield.
Want to learn more about hydroponics? Visit Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers’ website below.