Ontario Construction News staff writer
Niagara College has broken ground on a new greenhouse.
“It is an exciting time for Niagara College (NC) as we break ground on a new, cutting-edge greenhouse that will support advancements in applied research and new, hands-on student learning opportunities,” college president Sean Kennedy said in a statement.
The site of the future greenhouse was recently fenced off behind the existing teaching greenhouse at the College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and construction is scheduled for completion by March 31, 2024.
The 1,258-square-metre greenhouse will include a horticulture laboratory to meet research needs for HESIC’s industry partners, as well as a new vertical grow room to allow expansion into this area of research to expose students to vertical controlled environment agriculture.
“This new state-of-the-art facility will be a game changer for HESIC, as it strives to help our vital greenhouse industry innovate while growing new learning opportunities for our students,” said Marc Nantel, vice-president, Research, Innovation and Strategic Enterprises.
Five individually contained bays will enable HESIC researchers to control temperature, humidity and lighting in separate environments for applied research projects in a variety of configurations, as well as integrated pest management and growth trials.
Since 2014, HESIC has supported the horticulture and agriculture industry by providing close to 90 industry projects. With demand growing from companies of all sizes in need of greenhouse expertise, the new facility will open doors for HESIC to help more businesses – with 53 leads identified for projects in 2024-2025.
The next-generation greenhouse is expected to cost $9.4 million, and will be a hub for the College’s Horticultural and Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC), which aims to meet growing demands for applied research services from industry and together, with the existing teaching greenhouse, will provide an expanded learning environment and new opportunities for students in NC’s School of Environment and Horticulture.
One of four research and innovation centres within NC’s award-winning research & innovation division, HESIC specializes in performing growth trials with horticultural crops that evaluate innovations and improvements.
“I am very pleased that this incredibly important project will become a reality,” said John F.T. Scott, who served as chair of Niagara College’s Board of Governors from 2017-2020, and oversaw the initial conception of the project. “This new facility will significantly enhance Niagara College’s capacity for horticultural education and research which will further solidify its position as a key driver of innovation and growth in one of Niagara’s core industries and Ontario’s key economic sectors.”
Ontario’s greenhouse industry is one of the most important and fastest-growing economic sectors in Canada with 1,000 greenhouses and 14.4 million sq. m. of harvested area. Ontario employs more than 16,000 people in the greenhouse sector, which has more than $1.7 billion in sales and $79 million in exports.