WINDSOR, ONT. -- The province is investing more than $3.6 million in greenhouse growers to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost competitiveness and innovation.

Funding is being provided through the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative to support 12 “innovative” projects to help develop new technologies.

"During these exceptional times, Ontario's greenhouse operations have played a critical role in making sure families across the province can continue to put food on their tables all year long," Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs said in a news release. "That's why we are investing in projects that will help greenhouse businesses improve productivity and adopt new technologies to address labour challenges and better position greenhouses to recover from COVID-19 faster."

Rick Nicholls, Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP made the announcement Wednesday on behalf of Hardeman.

According to the release, Ontario’s greenhouse sector is expanding at an annual rate of four to five per cent, with Ontario’s 865 greenhouses making up roughly 3,740 acres across the province.

"Ontario is rapidly expanding, and so will our need for fresh local produce," said Nicholls. "This funding to expand, support, and innovate our greenhouses in Ontario will benefit everyone in the long run.”

The Ontario government said the projects are designed to focus on key areas identified by the sector to help drive innovation, resilience and economic growth in the industry.

The projects include:

  • Allegro Acres Inc. is receiving $999,345 to test the impact of up to 24-hours nonstop light of low-intensity lighting on a commercial scale, which will reduce electricity consumption during peak hours and improve energy efficiency.
  • Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers is receiving $149,634 to develop a cost-effective anti-viral coating technology to treat tools and surfaces to reduce the spread of plant and human viruses in greenhouses, including COVID-19. This technology will help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and enhance biosecurity.
  • Great Lakes Greenhouses Inc. is receiving $547,720 to use artificial intelligence to develop an autonomous grower technology that will enhance environmental sustainability, accelerate transition to year-round production. The technology will allow greenhouse operators to remotely grow cucumbers and eggplant crops, reducing in-person contact and allowing them to manage more sites remotely.

“Our growers take great pride in their responsibility to produce safe, sustainable local products and the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for resilient local agriculture production that puts the health and well-being of employees and our farm families first,” said Jan VanderHout, president of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance. “Today's announcement advances our ability to do that.”

A full list of the 12 projects is available on the Ontario government’s website.