Sod was turned Thursday for the first-of-its-kind greenhouse in North America that will make use of surplus heat and carbon dioxide from a nearby ethanol plant.
The $65 million project on Bloomfield Road, across from GreenField Ethanol in southwest Chatham, received a $3.2 million boost from the provincial government.
“This investment supports innovation in Ontario’s agri-products industries and brings skilled jobs to Chatham-Kent,” said Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin. “This project is a great example of how agriculture is growing Ontario’s future.”
Greg Devries of Dresden, CEO of Cedarline Greenhouses and Truly Green Farms, said the provincial funding will help his company supply Ontarians with high-quality, affordable and locally-grown tomatoes while creating jobs in Chatham-Kent.
“Agriculture is a huge economic driver in Chatham-Kent,” he said. “Our project has been two years in the making.”
The first phase calls for 22.5 acres of greenhouse producing up to 21 million kilograms of tomatoes annually. The first crop will be planted next July.
Devries said the partnership with GreenField Ethanol will lower heating costs for the greenhouse by 40% while increasing tomato production by 5%.
The project will create up to 90 direct and indirect jobs initially and when expanded to 90 acres over 10 years will create up to 400 direct and indirect jobs.
Close to 80% of Ontario’s greenhouse industry is located in Chatham-Kent and neighbouring Essex County.
Mayor Randy Hope said Chatham-Kent can now claim the title of Canada’s tomato capital.
“We’ll leave Leamington with its big, red tomato but we have the title recognition,” he said.
Ontario’s ethanol industry produces more than 885 million litres of ethanol annually and has generated more than $635 million in capital investments.
Written by Bob Boughner for the Chatham Daily News, December 6th, 2012