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For the Good of the Earth

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As seen in the December issue of BOSS Magazine

The bright red cherry tomato bursts with a pop as you sink your teeth into it, and for a few delightful seconds it’s still summertime—even though it’s winter. You take another bite to make sure you’re not imagining that freshness, and sure enough, it’s just as bright, tart, and sweet as the first. The taste takes you back to your childhood, when you’d steal tomatoes from a neighbor’s garden, helping yourself to another, and another…

As summer fades and the air grows colder you’ve become accustomed to the average pinkish-orange globes posing as tomatoes that start filling the shelves of the produce department. Thankfully, Village Farms has no interest in growing average produce, and their environmentally friendly growing methods allow for fresh, high quality produce year-round. In fact, nothing that the North American based company does is anywhere near average and that’s not just great for veggie lovers—it’s great for the planet, too.

As the premier greenhouse grower of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and other crops in North America, Village Farms’ dedication to sustainability, technology, and innovation shows with every pristine vegetable picked. Launched in Pennsylvania in 1988, Village Farms has grown from a single 10-acre greenhouse operation to a vertically-integrated agricultural enterprise.

“On day one it wasn’t the plan,” admitted Mike DeGiglio, Village Farms’ President and CEO. “Our first crop was half peppers, half tomatoes, and our focus was on being a grower.”

When that first crop was rejected by a surly Northeastern produce broker for being “no good,” DeGiglio ignored the slight.
“We hired a sales guy the next day and never looked back.”

New Day, New Business Model
When the company began, all of the disciplines in traditional produce companies were separate.

“The grower is the grower, who went to a labor manager to pick the crop, then to a processor who graded and sorted it. Then that’s sent to a trucking company, then to a broker. That broker would send it to a retailer,” DeGiglio recounted. “We asked ourselves, ‘why can’t we do all of it?’” The answer was, “We can.” and today, Village Farms is an end-to-end operation.

“Today we have 270 skus and 35 tomato varieties,” he noted. “We slowly added more salespeople, distribution centers, and transportation. We became a vertically integrated producer. We have our own engineering, even though there are plenty of companies that build greenhouses.”

The company built a sophisticated greenhouse in West Texas, in part of the Chihuahuan Desert.  “It’s not quite a biosphere but pretty close. It’s 110 degrees all summer and only 20 degrees in winter,” he chuckled, a trace of awe in his voice. “Nothing grows there but tumbleweeds and lizards. We’re like an oasis—it blows people away.”

Today, the company owns and operates seven facilities in British Columbia and Texas, and provides operational and technical support and logistics services for more than an additional 150 acres of greenhouse production throughout Canada and Mexico.

The Greenhouse Difference
Greenhouse growing is far superior to conventional land farming, producing better crops with markedly less waste and dramatically less environmental impact.

“It’s a combination of food safety, quality of the product, shelf life of the product, and taste—it’s consistent, available 365 days a year, and not just seasonal,” DeGiglio explained.

Indoor growing is the premier method of sustainable production and allows Village farms to use integrated pest management as biological control, meaning they release good bugs to combat bad bugs instead of using chemical pesticides. “Of all agricultural products, proteins like beef and chicken, row crops, and fruits and vegetables, I think greenhouse growing, is by far the most sustainable type of agriculture there is, even over organic growing methods,” he said.

“When you are in a controlled environment greenhouse, utilizing the same resources an outdoor farmer would use like sunlight and water, you can do it in an environment that is much more efficient and productive,” he added.

These carefully monitored environments offer protection against elements typical farmers have no control over, like wind, rain, and extreme heat and cold.

“We can produce output that has 30 times more yield per acre than crops grown on farmland. A 100-acre greenhouse produces the equivalent of 3,000-acre farm. And you can locate a greenhouse close to anywhere depending on the technology you use.”

Earth First
Village Farms’ approach to sustainability abides by a commitment to leave the earth’s resources for future generations. “The way Village Farms fits that definition of sustainability is: one, we don’t use soil, so it takes a lot less land for the same amount of crops. Two, we don’t take any nutrients out of the soil. Three, we don’t leachate any of our solutions into the ground,” DeGiglio enumerated.

“It took 500,000 years for the first one billion human beings to be on the planet. There are now seven-plus billion of us. The demographics say that by 2050, there will be a 30 percent increase of the population of the planet. That’s 2.5 billion people. Whether that number is up or down by twenty percent doesn’t matter,” he posited. “How is agriculture going to feed that amount of people with the same amount of water? It has to come from efficiency and sustainability.”

The company chose growing regions in British Columbia and Texas based on the climate conditions most favorable to producing consistently superior quality crops. “You can’t move your farm to take advantage of a better climate,” he mused. “In Texas, we grow at the southernmost latitude a the highest elevation in the U.S. We are at a 5,000-foot elevation. We do that because of the warm days and cool nights.”
Natural gas is used to heat the greenhouse at night.

“The boilers designed for greenhouses over the past three decades are so efficient and clean, the carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s released is food grade. We capture all of it, and pump it into the greenhouse,” he revealed. “As you remember from ninth grade biology, plants take in CO2 and make oxygen. Not only do we not extract the CO2 into the atmosphere, we convert it into oxygen. That can’t be done outside.”

Village Farms produces only non-GMO crops, grown in an organic medium made of coconut husks. Crops are vine ripened and hand-picked at the exact right moment for the absolute best taste.

“A lot of field growers pick tomatoes when they’re green,” he said. “If a tomato doesn’t get to a certain level of maturity the ripening process never occurs. So they spray an ethylene gas on it so it turns an orangey pink. Bananas are shipped green, and when they’re ready to ship to the store they spray them with ethylene. Vine ripened taste is much better.”

The company’s agricultural engineers are working on extending product shelf life. “There’s all kinds of good things happening that drives a better tasting, safer product, and people can trust that brand,” he added.

Committing to the Cannabis Crop
Canada approved the use of medical marijuana in 2001, and pending legislation is expected to legalize it for recreational use in mid 2018. Village Farms recently entered into a partnership with Emerald Health Therapeutics, a bio-pharma company focused on the use of cannabinoids to treat disease.

“We are currently in the process of converting our smallest greenhouse footprint of 1.1 million square feet to cannabis in British Columbia. It’s a very new crop, and a lot of the early folks that got into it weren’t farmers, they were just folks who saw an opportunity. We thought our ability to grow any crop was a good fit,” he stated.

“We’ve done modeling, we talked to Health Canada, and we saw a great opportunity in conversions of our Canadian high-tech greenhouses as a lower cost model rather than building new ones because we feel that it will eventually become commoditized out, and when it does, in the end it’s the low-cost producer that survives. That’s always a prudent thing in agriculture.”

While practicality is at the heart of everything Village Farms does as a business, the people of Village Farms are really what makes the difference and our planet—and palates—are much better for it.

Click here to downlod a .pdf version of this article

News

Village Farms Donates Time on #GivingTuesday

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On November 28 a team from Village Farms and Produce for Kids celebrated #GivingTuesday by volunteering their time at Second Harvest Food Bank in Orlando, Fla. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

“Being able to give back to our community alongside friends from the produce industry is so rewarding,” said Helen Aquino, Director of Brand Marketing and Communications. “We are so grateful for the ability to do our part in assisting in the fight against hunger.”

The teams spent the morning sorting produce that would go on to make more than 4,000 meals. Second Harvest Food Bank provides an especially important service in the Orlando area because 1 in 6 Central Floridians are food insecure and 1 in 4 kids in the area are at risk of going to bed hungry. Second Harvest supplies more than 550 local nonprofit feeding programs to help combat those statistics.

#GivingTuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and has gained traction over the last six years amongst the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

About Village Farms
Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers, and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables in North America. The food our farmers grow, along with other greenhouse farmers under exclusive arrangements are all grown in environmentally friendly, soil-less, glass greenhouses. The Village Farms® brand of fruits and vegetables is marketed and distributed primarily to local retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada. Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by sustainability principles that enable us to grow food 365 days a year that not only feeds the growing population but is healthier for people and the planet. Village Farms is Good for the Earth® and good for you.

See press release here.

 

News

Generation Next: It takes a Village to be successful, says Krysten DeGiglio

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As seen in the November 27, 2017 issue of The Produce News
by Maggie Giuffrida
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Growing up, Krysten DeGiglio was admittedly not a huge fan of tomatoes, but oh, how the times have changed now that the 30-year-old Holmdel, NJ, resident works as a regional sales manager for Village Farms — the oldest greenhouse grower in the United States, specializing in exclusive varieties of tomatoes, as well as cucumbers and peppers.

“I pop a Cherry No. 9 tomato like candy!” DeGiglio laughed. “The Heavenly Villagio Marzano is also one of my favorites. Although it’s great to snack on, I absolutely love to cook with it — and it is so versatile. If I’m trying to impress someone in the kitchen, it’s always my staple ingredient.”

A graduate of Fairfield University in Connecticut, DeGiglio earned her bachelor’s and master’s of business administration degrees in accounting. While in college, DeGiglio studied abroad in Florence, Italy, for one semester.

“This experience sparked my interested to learn about different cultures and travel,” she said.

After graduation, DeGiglio worked for Ernst & Young for four-and-a-half years, and then did a short stint with a pharmaceutical company before discovering her true passion for the produce industry.

“I was invited to attend the PMA Fresh Summit show in 2013,” DeGiglio told The Produce News. “It was the first time I was really exposed to the produce industry and I fell in love with it. Since then, I thought this is where my passion lies, this would make for a fulfilling career.”

But there wasn’t an immediate “in” for DeGiglio, despite the fact that her father, Michael DeGiglio, is co-founder and chief executive officer at Village Farms.

“Truly being a public company, there are no family ties here,” DeGiglio noted.

So she waited patiently, and in August of 2015, DeGiglio got a call from her father about an opening in the Village Farms sales department.

“There was a need to hire a Northeast sales manager,” she recalled. “Village Farms entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Great Northern Hydroponics, a greenhouse grower with 70 acres of production capacity in Leamington, Ontario. This provided an opportunity to extend the company’s entire product line into the Northeast to new and existing customers, and gave Village Farms incentive to hire a millennial with a go-getter mentality.”

And just like that, DeGiglio knew she was the right person for the role. She interviewed with Bret Wiley, senior vice president of sales for the company, and a couple months later, DeGiglio was working her dream job.

“I will always remember what Bret told me before I joined the company,” she said. “He informed me that produce is one of the most challenging industries to work in and that I was going to need tough skin. Looking back over the last two years, I would have to say he was right.”

But those challenges haven’t come without their rewards.

“The most rewarding part for me is working for a company that I’m proud to represent. Village Farms is good for people and the planet,” she said. “I feel fortunate to be part of a team of experienced professionals. Many of my colleagues have worked in produce their entire careers. The knowledge they share is not something you can learn from a book — it’s invaluable.”

One of her greatest mentors, she noted, is her father, who without his help and guidance “this wouldn’t be possible.”

“I’ve never met someone who works so hard,” DeGiglio said. “He never gives up, he never stops, and he always follows through. Personally, I feel extremely fortunate to work for the company at the same time as my father. I get to observe what a great leader, friend, confidant and CEO he is to all at Village Farms.”

And being a part of that Village Farms family is something DeGiglio certainly does not take for granted either.

“Even though a lot of us work remotely, when we come together it truly feels like we’re a family, and that’s really unique,” she said. “It makes me want to keep working harder and harder.”

As far as obstacles she faces in her role as a sales manager, DeGiglio said those mostly revolve around fluctuating supply and demand, which can be difficult at times, but working with her team to identify and solve problems that arise is an essential part of the job.

“My position relies on all the other facets of this business, from production to transportation to marketing to sales. It’s a very integrated network, which is what I love so much about it,” she noted.

That sense of teamwork and camaraderie among her coworkers and clients is something DeGiglio plans to continue honing in on in the New Year.

“My goal is to take my relationships to the next level,” she said. “I want to become more of a consumer-focused specialist and help to integrate sales and marketing internally and externally, which in return will escalate the partnerships that we have.”

After all, it does take a Village.

 

News

Village Farms Director Roberta Cook named One of Produce Grower’s 10 People Who Are Influencing the Produce Industry

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As seen in the October 2017 issue of Produce Grower
by Neil Moran

Dr. Roberta Cook
Director, Village Farms
A longtime academic economist now advises an industry-leading grower

roberta_cook-sizedAfter 31 years working at University of California, Davis, Dr. Roberta Cook remains as passionate about the produce industry as when she was still a graduate student at Michigan State University.

“In my career at UC Davis, I was tasked with looking at all the key supply and demand trends affecting markets for fresh produce in California,” says Cook, who held the position of extension economist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. She is now on the board of directors at Village Farms and Ocean Mist Farms.

Her research and consultations have allowed her to gain key insights into the trends affecting the product industry – information that should be valuable to both growers and retailers. Cook says consumers became very value-conscious during the recession and haven’t reverted to earlier buying practices, making competitive pricing even more important for retailers, which puts pressure on suppliers.

One of the biggest trends she sees affecting the industry, which will most likely continue for years to come is “channel blurring,” or the advent of more and more types of competing retail outlets for fresh produce, beyond the conventional supermarket of old.

“From Walmart Supercenters to club stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, drug stores, online sales and limited assortment stores, such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s, the proliferation of store formats is still expanding.” Cooks says.

 

News

Village Farms Introducing Lorabella Blossom Tomato

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As seen on The Produce News on September 28, 2017

by Keith Loria

As the fall season gets under way, the staff at Village Farms is excited about some great things happening in the months ahead, including gearing up for PMA Fresh Summit 2017 in New Orleans (booth No. 453), where it plans to feature its newest tomato variety, Lorabella Blossom.

“This is what we are calling a ‘blissfully bright’ tomato that we are introducing as part of our authentic San Marzano family of products,” said Helen L. Aquino, director of brand marketing and communication for the Heathrow, FL-based company. “It has the same shape and mouth appeal as our signature Heavenly Villagio Marzano, an authentic mini San Marzano variety.”

lorabella-blossom-package-photo-for-webThe Heavenly Villagio Marzano is the only authentic mini San Marzano tomato sold in North America that hails from the mother genetics of the San Marzano tomato originally grown in Italy and known the world over for its amazing flavor and sauce making qualities, according to the company.

“Not to be outdone, Lorabella Blossom is a cousin to this variety and maintains similar old world sensibilities in a unique flavor profile but with a twist all its own,” Aquino said. “Its vibrant bright orange color is so attractive and an unexpected color disruptor on shelf consumers will love seeing. We are calling it Lorabella Blossom because the flavor actually blooms in your mouth with a unique citrus floral essence. The fragrant floral notes and citrus essence are complimented by smooth earthy undertones to form a balanced harmony in flavor.”

She added that the product is versatile as well, allowing for easy snacking due to its one-bite size, or can be roasted in a chunky sauce or grilled on kebabs. And it also makes a refreshingly zesty salsa.

“We will be sampling it during Fresh Summit in a number of dishes for visitors to the booth to try,” Aquino said. “Village Farms’ brand ambassador, Kristina LaRue will be creating fun and surprising dishes during PMA with Lorabella Blossom, as well as our other exclusive specialty varieties.”

LaRue is a registered dietitian and will be on hand to give demonstrations throughout the show in Village Farms’ booth while sharing her take on fun healthy simple to prepare yet great tasting ideas for all of its products.

Village Farms is offering Lorabella Blossom in 10-ounce clamshells in limited volumes but will be gearing up into 2018 given the overwhelming interest by its customers.

Doug Kling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Village Farms, said there are plenty of new initiatives going on around the company geared toward stronger engagement with consumers regarding more targeted initiatives via social media, stronger localized support programs and new exclusive varieties.

“These programs are all targeted on meeting new demands for flavor, sustainability, and socially responsible activities, demanded and expected by millennials, Gen X, baby boomers and the broad range of consumers our industry covers including our retail partners,” he said. “In addition, we continue to expand our growing areas working with agro professionals at Village Farms with combined experiences of over 100 years in the greenhouse industry, focused on enhancing yields, and flavor in the most sustainable manner possible while providing state-of-the-art efficient methods of farming and driving positive outcomes for us and all our partners.”

Recently Village Farms was recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in British Columbia for 2017. The list is compiled by Business in Vancouver, a weekly business news journal that ranks companies based on outstanding growth over the last five years and is intended to provide a representative sample of companies in the province whose entrepreneurial direction and focus are gaining highest traction through new opportunities being seeded.

News

Village Farms Employees Offer Irma Relief to Second Harvest Food Bank

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In an effort to provide support post Hurricane Irma Village Farms employees volunteered their time at the local Second Harvest Food Bank in Orlando, Florida. Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida distributes tens of millions of meals per year through 550 local nonprofit feeding programs geared toward the most vulnerable people such as seniors and children. In addition, the Food Bank provides a vital emergency food supply for the community in time of need. Village Farms employees spent the morning sorting food donations slated for disaster victims residing in six counties in central Florida.

“Village Farms takes the business of growing food for people very seriously so having the opportunity to give back to our local Food Bank who makes it a business of feeding people in need was a real pleasure”, said Helen L. Aquino, Director Brand Marketing & Communication for Village Farms. “Our time spent here today really felt great and something we wish to partake in again very soon”.

For more information visit about Village Farms please visit our website at www.villagefarms.com.

About Village Farms
Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers, and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables in North America. The food our farmers grow, along with other greenhouse farmers under exclusive arrangements are all grown in environmentally friendly, soil-less, glass greenhouses. The Village Farms® brand of fruits and vegetables is marketed and distributed primarily to local retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada. Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by sustainability principles that enable us to grow food 365 days a year that not only feeds the growing population but is healthier for people and the planet. Village Farms is Good for the Earth® and good for you.

See press release here.

 

News

Village Farms Recognized by Business In Vancouver as Fastest Growing Company

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Business in Vancouver has recognized Village Farms as one of the fastest growing companies in British Columbia for 2017.  The list is compiled by Business in Vancouver, a weekly business news journal who ranks companies based on outstanding growth over the last five years. Business in Vancouver’s annual list of the fastest growing companies in British Columbia includes a wide range of entrepreneurs across many business sectors.  The list is intended to provide a representative sample of companies in the province whose entrepreneurial direction and focus are gaining highest traction through new opportunities being seeded.

About Village Farms

Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers, and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables in North America.  The food our farmers grow, along with other greenhouse farmers under exclusive arrangements are all grown in environmentally friendly, soil-less, glass greenhouses.  The Village Farms® brand of fruits and vegetables is marketed and distributed primarily to local retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada.  Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by sustainability principles that enable us to grow food 365 days a year that not only feeds the growing population but is healthier for people and the planet.  Village Farms is Good for the Earth® and good for you.

See press release here.

 

News

Village Farms Donates to Relief Efforts for Victims of Hurricane Harvey

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A vast expanse of 600 miles separates Village Farms’ greenhouse in Marfa, Texas from Houston but the distance to the heart is much closer.  Bright and early this morning a Village Farms tractor trailer hit the road to bridge the span of this great distance loaded with fresh produce for the Houston Food Bank.  Village Farms’ employees pitched in yesterday, Labor Day, a national holiday, to help pack the ten thousand plus pounds of fresh tomatoes slated for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“Texas is a big state and many of us here at Village Farms have loved ones in Houston and the surrounding East Texas areas impacted by this storm, our hearts go out to them and so this is the least we can do to show we care”, said Jan Korteland, Regional Facility Manager of Village Farms in West Texas.

Village Farms is the largest greenhouse grower of locally grown fresh produce in Texas.  Village Farms’ hand-picked vine ripened sustainably grown greenhouse tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are sold in major retailers all over the state.  Village Farms is hoping its donation to the Houston Food Bank will help keep Texas strong.

About Village Farms

Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers, and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables in North America.  The food our farmers grow, along with other greenhouse farmers under exclusive arrangements are all grown in environmentally friendly, soil-less, glass greenhouses.  The Village Farms® brand of fruits and vegetables is marketed and distributed primarily to local retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada.  Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by sustainability principles that enable us to grow food 365 days a year that not only feeds the growing population but is healthier for people and the planet.  Village Farms is Good for the Earth® and good for you.

See press release here.

 

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Uncategorized

Ease of Trading Expands for Village Farms Shares

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Vancouver, B.C., August 3, 2015 – Village Farms International Inc. (Village Farms) (VFF.TSX) (OTCQX:VFFIF), a progressive vertically integrated food company focused on growing, marketing, and distributing its branded fruits and vegetables to retailers throughout the United States and Canada, has been approved to trade on the OTCQX® Best Market in the United States under the symbol “VFFIF”. Village Farms will continue to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “VFF”.

Trading on OTCQX is designed to provide existing and future U.S. based shareholders with ease of trading Village Farms’ shares and convenient access to its news and financial disclosures. U.S. investors can find current financial disclosure and Real-Time Level 2 quotes for Village Farms on www.otcmarkets.com.
Michael A. DeGiglio, President & CEO of Village Farms, stated “While our operations are evenly split between the U.S. and Canada our sales are predominantly in the U.S. and over the years we continue to receive requests from U.S. individuals and institutions to purchase shares in Village Farms. In response to these requests and to increase our investor base the OTCQX market provides the solution. Village Farms was founded in the U.S. in 1987, so we are proud to be traded on a premium U.S. market.”
J.P. Galda & Co. serves as Village Farms’ Principal American Liaison (“PAL”) on OTCQX, responsible for providing professional guidance on OTCQX requirements and U.S. securities laws.

In addition, Village Farms announced that its financial information will be made available via S&P Capital IQ’s Market Access Program, an information distribution service that enables subscribing publicly traded companies to have their company information disseminated to users of S&P Capital IQ’s MarketScope Advisor. MarketScope Advisor is an Internet-based research engine used by more than 100,000 investment advisors. As part of the program, a full description of Village Farms will also be published in the Daily News section of Standard Corporation Records, a recognized securities manual for secondary trading in up to 38 states under their Blue Sky Laws. S&P Capital IQ Corporation Records is available in print, CD-ROM, and via the web at www.netadvantage.standardandpoors.com as well as through numerous electronic vendors.

About Village Farms
Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers, and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables in North America. The food our farmers grow, along with other greenhouse farmers under exclusive arrangements are all grown in environmentally friendly, soil-less, glass greenhouses. The Village Farms® brand of fruits and vegetables is marketed and distributed primarily to local retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada. Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by sustainability principles that enable us to grow food 365 days a year that not only feeds the growing population but is healthier for people and the planet. Natural resource efficiencies such as water conservation and renewable energy optimizing cogeneration are all part of our clean technology model of farming. Village Farms is Good for the Earth® and good for you.

About S&P Capital IQ
S&P Capital IQ, a part of McGraw Hill Financial, is a leading provider of multi-asset class and real time data, research and analytics to institutional investors, investment and commercial banks, investment advisors and wealth managers, corporations and universities around the world. Evaluated pricing is prepared by Standard & Poor’s Securities Evaluations, Inc., a part of S&P Capital IQ and a registered investment adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In the United States, research reports are prepared by Standard & Poor’s Investment Advisory Services LLC, a part of S&P Capital IQ and a registered investment adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. S&P Capital IQ provides a broad suite of capabilities designed to help track performance, generate alpha, and identify new trading and investment ideas, and perform risk analysis and mitigation strategies. Through leading desktop solutions such as the S&P Capital IQ, Global Credit Portal and MarketScope Advisor desktops; enterprise solutions such as S&P Capital IQ Valuations; and research offerings, including Leveraged Commentary & Data, Global Markets Intelligence, and company and funds research, S&P Capital IQ sharpens financial intelligence into the wisdom today’s investors need. For more information visit: www.spcapitaliq.com

For further information

Stephen C. Ruffini, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Village Farms International, Inc., (407) 936-1190 ext 340.

S&P Capital IQ
Equity Research Operations, 212-438-4050
ers_businessoperations@spcapitaliq.com

News

Urban Ag News

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by Urban Ag News

Mike DeGiglio, president and chief executive officer at Village Farms International, spoke with Urban Ag News about his company’s approach to technology and how it’s using it to be more efficient and profitable.

When was Village Farms started and how has it expanded in size?

I started Village Farms in 1987 with 10 acres of greenhouses in Pennsylvania and we developed and operated greenhouses in New York and Virginia. In 1996 the company started building 120 acres in southwest Texas. In 2006 Village Farms acquired the largest greenhouse company in Canada located in British Columbia. The facility was about 140 acres. Some of the small greenhouses were sold so today there are 110 acres. In 2012 a new 30-acre facility was built in Monahan, Texas. Today there are 240 acres of glass greenhouses in the U.S. and Canada. Village Farms also markets product from many other growers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

How has the use of technology evolved at Village Farms?

For the first 20 or so years, Village Farms worked off of existing European technology that was mostly used in Dutch greenhouses. Holland was considered the Mecca of greenhouse technology. And most companies worldwide looked to the Dutch when it came to higher technology. But that changed. It changed as greenhouses internationally began to quantify the tools to work in a wide variation of climates. The Dutch technology was geared more for the climate in Holland, where it never really gets hot. It’s a temperate climate with low light levels. Village Farms eventually saw the need to develop its own technology. That is easier said than done. If a company is going to spend millions of dollars on R&D, it has to be big enough to sustain it. Even though Village Farms is successful in this endeavor, it was only achieved after 25 years in business and it could afford the costs once critical mass had been achieved to allow further expansion to build projects that cost millions of dollars. For someone just starting out that is extremely hard to do. Most greenhouse growers use existing technology. Village Farms didn’t go that way. It developed its own. The company wanted to be able to have the intellectual property in creating greenhouse growing environments that can mimic the exact climate it wanted based on the crops it would grow and then locate those in areas it wanted to be in for market reasons. If this was left up to a technology company, it might not necessarily be focused on that. Village Farms is unique in that it developed its own technology as compared to most other companies that work with existing technology.

In what technology areas has Village Farms invested?

Most of Village Farms’ technology is in software design to control the internal environment of the greenhouse. The company has done a lot with growing technology, both on the production and packing lines. When it comes to growing media, irrigation systems, etc., the company looked at these various components, but production is not where it spent most of its money. The bulk of the money was spent to create a greenhouse climate that is workable regardless of where the footprint is. Our goal was to create the software to be able to run a very sophisticated greenhouse that could have conditions very conducive to plant growth regardless of what it is doing outside. If you can accomplish that, then you can put the greenhouses not where it is best for the plants, but where it is best for the market to lower freight costs and increase access to labor. You can be more sustainable and you can increase product shelf life and product quality.

Village-Farms-Chef-Dirk-AG

What are some of the other areas of technology in which Village Farms is looking to invest?

Additional technology for the company could come on the energy side and supplementing carbon dioxide. If we can reduce energy costs, we would be much more sustainable. Village Farms has invested with Quadrogen Power Systems, FuelCell Energy and the National Research Council of Canada to build a pilot project for fuel cell technology for our greenhouse in British Columbia. Also, our new Permian Basin facility derives all of its electrical needs exclusively from wind power. A second area we are looking at is cleaning up landfill methane gas. Village Farms acquired Maxim Power, a co-generation facility adjacent to our greenhouse facility in British Columbia. The next phase, which we are working on with the Canadian government, Hallbar Consulting and the Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, is to fund a study on the capturing carbon dioxide from landfill gas. There are hundreds of thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide flowing out of landfills every day. Our goal is to find the technology to clean the carbon dioxide so that we can use it in our growing processes. If we can use the potential of the carbon dioxide sequestered in the landfill, clean it and then use it in the growing process, we will reduce our costs and help clean the environment. The benefit is to lower our production costs. We won’t have to burn natural gas to produce carbon dioxide and we won’t have to buy carbon dioxide. We will also be reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Greenhouse-AG

What advice would you offer U.S. greenhouse growers of edible crops when it comes to making technology investments in their companies?

I would have to ask what is the crop and how do you compete? If you have the right crop, then I would ask what are the big issues? There currently is a big labor shortage in agriculture. Using technology to mitigate labor shortage issues, then I think a grower can move forward. As more crops are being looked at for indoor production, for example berries, then you know you are going to have to have production systems that can mitigate labor even to the point of incorporating some robotics. The use of robotics may also expand to packaging and shipping as well as harvesting and other tasks in the greenhouse. Technology could play a role in berry picking in the greenhouse and in the field. Last year growers left a lot of berries in the field because of the shortage of labor. The use of migrant labor to go from berry farm to berry farm, which is seasonal outdoors, is becoming much more difficult.

What crops are Village Farms now producing and do you expect that to change much over the next five years?

We are always looking at different varieties of our core products, including tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant, of which we have multiple colors. We are always looking at unique varieties of our core products. We launched our unique and exclusive Heavenly Villagio Marzano® tomato variety about two years ago. We have a whole pipeline of new varieties. We continue to diversify. Berries are definitely on our radar screen. Nutraceuticals and some unique medicinals have a future. Some of the nutraceuticals are plants that have a medicinal benefit. Some of these will have to be produced in conjunction with the pharmaceutical companies. For a pharmaceutical company to sell something it has to be patentable or else it won’t be interested. We are always looking for unique, higher value products that are difficult to grow in the field due to climate or labor or not being available year round. Our focus is on increasing value for our customers by not compromising on food safety, using IPM, and consistent quality that help us provide the best products for consumers.

Jose-Jan-AG

What do you think about the increased interest in vertical farming?

Vertical farming is still in the R&D phase. There is a PR value. The capital and operating costs are huge. It’s limited on the size so how do you reach critical mass? It’s not large scale agriculture. Village Farms does everything on an investment basis. We really understand our costs. Our greenhouses cost nearly $2 million an acre. A lot of these vertical farm operations can’t grow long term crops, at least not now. Vertical farms have a place for crops like leafy greens. Any crop that can be turned quickly in 28-30 days like leafy greens could potentially be grown in a vertical farm. Looking at the lettuce industry, most of the product is grown and shipped from California to the East Coast. If those crops can be grown regionally or locally and bagged here instead, the carbon footprint for shipping the product is reduced or eliminated. On the other hand, you have to be cost effective. How are these vertical farms going to compete with field-grown product long term? You can always find niche markets where people are willing to pay a premium for locally produced. When you make those kinds of large investments you have to be sure it is sustainable. And more importantly, that the profit is sustainable in the long term. Growing food for human consumption carries a huge responsibility along with it, this is something we have never taken lightly, and is the key driver in how we do business and measure efficiency.

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David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.

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Study explores capture of clean carbon dioxide from landfill gases

11069983

A Village Farms employee at the company’s Ladner greenhouse, which burns methane gas from the Vancouver landfill to generate heat and electricity.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , Vancouver Sun

Local greenhouse grower Village Farms is hoping to extract clean carbon dioxide — as well as heat and electricity — from the landfill gases it burns.

The Delta-based grower has been burning methane gas from Vancouver’s landfill to generate heat and electricity for 12 years at the firm’s Ladner facility under an agreement with the City of Vancouver and BC Hydro, according to the firm’s development director Jonathan Bos. But because landfill gas is chemically inconsistent and contains contaminants, the CO2 generated by the process isn’t clean enough to be used in greenhouses and is released in exhaust.

Cogeneration using natural gas is widely regarded as a clean source of carbon dioxide and energy, said Bos. “But landfill gas is a completely different animal.”

Bos hopes a new $300,000 feasibility study — by Hallbar Consulting and the Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering and funded by the Innovation Agriculture Foundation of B.C. and several industry partners — will change that, helping end the waste of a rich but untapped source of CO2.

“Landfill gas is more than 50 per cent CO2 before we burn it, so it really is a wasted resource,” said Bos.

A breakthrough that allows clean carbon dioxide to be recovered from landfill gas would be a double win, enabling the industry to extract maximum value from a waste-stream resource and potentially improving air quality in the Fraser Valley, where the greenhouse growers are concentrated.

“The people of Greater Vancouver and our own families are real stakeholders in this process,” said Bos. “We have the potential to make a long-term positive impact on emissions.”

British Columbia’s greenhouse growers are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, a gas that is essential to plant growth and which can boost yields by up to 30 per cent when piped into greenhouses, according to a recently published government discussion paper. Greenhouses maintain CO2 levels of 800 parts per million or more, roughly double the amount that occurs in our atmosphere.

Most greenhouse growers in B.C. — including Village Farms — obtain carbon dioxide by burning natural gas, according to Linda Delli Santi, executive director of the B.C. Greenhouse Growers’ Association, a funding partner in the project.

Greenhouses use the heat created by the process to maintain optimal temperatures inside the greenhouses and a handful also generate electricity, which can be sold onto the power grid.

Landfill gas, which contains methane, can be recovered for use as a fuel or it must be flared to prevent it escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is extremely harmful to the ozone layer in earth’s upper atmosphere and is a potent greenhouse gas.

Flaring, however, releases carbon dioxide and, while it is less harmful than methane, it is also believed to fuel global warming.

“Landfill gas is an ugly, corrosive fuel and that creates all kinds of problems,” said Bos. “But there is an appetite for the CO2, a fuel source and an environmental benefit to finding a solution.”

The region’s greenhouses as well as funding partners such as Air Liquide and the B.C. Food and Beverage Association are potential customers for a clean, cheap source of carbon dioxide, Bos said.

“What we hope is to identify a process to collect (carbon dioxide) from landfill gas combustion that will be safe for people and safe for plants,” he said.

The consultants will spend the better part of the next year scouring the world for technologies and processes that can be adapted to the needs of the industry.

rshore@vancouversun.com

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Study+explores+capture+clean+carbon+dioxide+from+landfill+gases/11069982/story.html#ixzz3bw7wl2WM