Dauphin is calling a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse being built in the community “an economic development dream come true.”
“This is something we haven’t seen before … everybody’s excited,” said Martijn van Luijn, economic development officer with the City of Dauphin, located 166 kilometres north of Brandon.
The $32-million greenhouse will employ around 30 people by the time Phase 1 is completed, said Maria Deschauer, managing director of Vermillion Growers, the company building the facility.
The company couldn’t provide a detailed timeline of the entire project, but said once the greenhouse expands, the job number will be closer to 200.
For van Luijn, it’s not just the potential for employment that has the city excited about the new greenhouse, which Deschauer said will be the first of its kind in Manitoba.
“I hope, and predict, that we will see some other spinoff businesses come from this as well,” van Luijn said, noting that such businesses could potentially include transportation, mechanical maintenance and storage.
Construction on the greenhouse started in June 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, but planning for the project really began about five years ago.
“First of all, we had to do a lot of research,” Deshauer said. “We needed to take a bit of time and educate our core team in terms of what a high-tech greenhouse looks like and how it operates.”
To do this, Deschauer and her team worked closely with Looije Agro Technics, a consulting company from the Netherlands.
“They were able to really help us determine what was the best structure and the best form of operations for our climate and location,” Deschauer said.
Dauphin was chosen for the location of the greenhouse because of the amount of sunlight it receives every year, Deschauer said.
“Dauphin has … 2,300 hours of sunlight every year, so for people in the greenhouse industry that is fantastic news. Sunlight means we have a lot of growth potential, even during the winter months.”
The community was also chosen because of its access to fresh water and hydroelectric power, which Deschauer explained will ensure the greenhouse operates with a “green” source of energy.
Dauphin’s proximity to Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon — and its strong connection to agriculture — were also factors, Deschauer said.
Once the first phase of construction is completed around December, 10 acres of tomatoes will be seeded at the greenhouse. By Phase 3, Vermillion Growers hopes to expand to 70 acres and grow sweet peppers and cucumbers too. The company has a marketing partnership with Red Sun Farms that will get their produce to market.
Part of the greenhouse will feature insulation panels and polycarbonate that will let plenty of light through, and a roof structure made of diffused glass. Deschauer said the greenhouse will be fully automated to allow airflow and will feature thermal screens to prevent heat loss. Light abatement screens will be used to prevent light pollution.
Echoing van Luijn’s optimism about the greenhouse, Deschauer said the community of Dauphin has been “incredibly supportive” of the venture. Through the province’s Small Business Venture Capital Tax Credit, residents have been able to invest in the greenhouse. In return, they get a non-refundable tax credit of up to 45 per cent.
The project raised around $2.5 million this way, Deschauer said.
Additional funding has come from founding partners, financing from the Bank of Montreal and contractor participation.
Job vacancies for the new greenhouse will be posted sometime this month.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun