Storage innovation and greenhouses allow local produce to flourish in winter months

News Release

Storage innovation and greenhouses allow local produce to flourish in winter months

For Immediate Release

Guelph ON, 1 February 2024 – Despite the freezing temperatures, winter in Ontario does not mean a lack of available fresh produce. Ontario growers use advanced technologies and innovative techniques such as controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, advanced lighting and climate control to keep their crops fresh.

Crisp apples, tasty potatoes, and flavourful cucumbers and strawberries – Ontario's farmers work hard to provide a variety of fresh, nutritious options, making it easier than ever to enjoy a diverse and delicious selection of Ontario produce throughout the whole year.

Examples include:

  • Greenhouses: commonly used to grow cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, greenhouses provide a controlled environment for crops to thrive, shielding them from the elements and allowing them to thrive during cold months with reduced sunshine. In the past five years greenhouse strawberries have become increasingly popular in Ontario, as well.
  • Root vegetables: stored in controlled environments with low temperatures and high humidity to minimize sprouting and maintain freshness. The storage facilities utilize advanced ventilation systems and temperature monitoring to keep the vegetables from going bad.
  • Apples: stored in low-oxygen environments to slow down the ripening process and maintain their crisp texture. CA storage facilities have been used in the Ontario apple industry for more than 50 years.

Ontario apple grower Chris Hedges, who has an orchard in Norfolk County, has been using CA storage on his farm since 2018. This lets him provide fresh Ontario apples to his customers not just during the fall harvest, but right through the winter months.

“In controlled atmosphere storage, we essentially put the apple to sleep,” says Hedges. “On the other side of those (storage) doors, it’s the top of Mount Everest, there’s no air in there.”

Just over 50 per cent of apples grown in the province are stored using CA storage. These storage facilities are equipped with advanced technology, to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which preserve flavour and prevent decay. In some apple varieties, CA storage actually helps bring out flavouring, creating a better apple for the consumer.

“Without modern storage techniques we have a situation where there’s an excess of supply at certain times of the year. So, the first thing CA storage does is it allows us to deliver the product consistently through a full calendar year,” Hedges adds. “Instead of having to rely on importing fruit from other countries, this lets grocery stores buy locally grown fruit from Ontario growers. This is part of what makes Ontario apple farming sustainable.”

 

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) encourages people to explore the abundance of fresh Ontario produce year-round. With domestic food production as important as ever, Ontario fruit and vegetable growers continue to show a commitment to adopt sustainable practices and provide top-quality fruits and vegetables ensuring food security in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.

The OFVGA is the voice of Ontario’s 3,500 fruit and vegetable farmers on issues affecting the horticulture sector. The sector grows produce in fields and greenhouses across the province for fresh and processed consumption. Visit www.ofvga.org, or follow @OntFruitVeg on X (Twitter) or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ofvga.

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For more information on CA storage, the benefits of eating local this winter and sustainable practices in the fruit and vegetable sector:

Ben Murray, Communications Advisor, OFVGA, bmurray@ofvga.org.