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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And How Sustainable Packaging is Evolving our Ideals

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“As a millennial, it’s no surprise, from a very early age I was taught about the ‘Three R’s’ of environmental responsibility and sustainability, ‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’”, Madison Wilson, Marketing Coordinator for Village Farms Greenhouse Grown brand tells us.  She goes on to say, “For many of my peers, the 3 R’s are now engrained into our daily routines and life practices”.  Finding reusable options, using less, and recycling have simply become a way of life for this generation. Millennials, as well as Gen X and Z, prioritize products that align with their sustainability goals and healthy lifestyles. Health is valued by this demographic and has gained an increased interest in not only the quality of their food choices and but the origins of their food in how it is grown and produced.

The recent pandemic has left all of us, regardless of the generation, with time to evaluate the environmental impact of our daily lifestyle practices. Choosing greenhouse grown produce provides some assurance of environmental stewardship.  Yet, ditching plastic straws will not be enough to keep our planet safe from the harm that plastic and other harmful waste can inflict. And people are beginning to understand they have the power to do more by purchasing food products that are packaged sustainably. 

Compared to Boomers, Millennials followed by Gen X, and then Gen Z, are more cognizant of the impact that their purchasing decisions have on society according to a recent report by the Hartman Group.  And at the same time, the World Economic Forum reports every year more than 400 million tons of plastics are discarded worldwide and only 14-18% is recycled.  During the pandemic there was a heightened concern for food safety, especially regarding unpackaged foods. Packaging helps to keep produce items safe and aids in what retailers refer to as reducing ‘shrink’, that also comes at a huge cost of doing business. In turn, packaging can reduce food waste which also comes at a huge cost to the environment. So, the need to protect our food and increase its shelf life with packaging is still relevant and necessary today.

The challenge to find environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic has increased in urgency. Sustainable packaging solutions that ensure the safety and shelf life of a product are also key. Village Farms has been working for several years now to develop and test packaging that can remain out of landfills. The recently launched Sensational Sara tomato was the debut of one such solution for the company.

Sensational Sara tomatoes are packaged in an innovative 1lb environmentally friendly box that is biodegradable and recyclable. The clear window film is made from a natural cellulose material that is certified home compostable.  The film can be easily peeled away and tossed in your backyard compost pile or community compost bin. The remaining paper board box can be recycled in your regular cardboard/paper recycling stream. A QR code on pack guides consumers through this simple process of separating the film from the box.  Helen L. Aquino, Director of Brand Marketing & Communications for Village Farms tell us. “The Pandemic also brought about a resurgence in the use of QR codes for touchless restaurant menus, and Dr. office intake forms, etc.  At the same time the technology caught up to functionality by simple act of opening your camera and pointing it at the code to scan, vs. using a dedicated app.  Both circumstances drove an increased use in QR codes.  This makes QR code the perfect vehicle for providing recycling information without taking up added packaging real estate for this important information”.

Village Farms is thrilled to offer this environmentally responsible packaging option for the debut of its unique newest tomato variety Sensational Sara in a 1lb box.  Village Farms is also offering this box for their 1lb Maverick Mix tomatoes, a lovely mix of specialty tomatoes in assorted shapes and sizes. They are hoping this type of packaging will gain further momentum with their retail partners. Aquino also mentioned, “We have a number of retailers showing interest and some with sustainability initiatives already in place giving preference to suppliers that can deliver on protecting the environment and sustainable packaging is one way such way.” 

To grow healthy and delicious food for human consumption is a huge responsibility. Village Farms is continuing this trend with packaging that is healthy for the planet as well.  The company’s innovative packaging solutions are keeping waste out of landfills, harmful gas out of the atmosphere, and keeping minds at ease knowing they are making a difference for the Earth.  Village Farms is committed to feeding an evolving and growing world population while preserving the planet.  The company’s cutting-edge greenhouses use less water, land, and chemicals to grow more food.   Village Farms’ innovative Controlled Environment Agriculture growing methods pave the way to curtail climate change. To find out more about Village Farms and their sustainability efforts read about their Good for the Earth platform.

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Village Farms Bee-lieves in Doing Good with IPM

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Creepy crawly bugs come in all shapes and sizes in this great wide world of ours, and we know that every insect plays a part in keeping our environment in balance.  In agriculture when insects are a nuisance, we call them ‘pests’, but when they are helpful, we call them ‘beneficials’.  Pesticides are used in agriculture to keep plants healthy from the pesky pests.  But, did you know that beneficial insects are used in farming to reduce the need for chemical pesticides and help facilitate the healthy growth of fruits and vegetables?  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a method that has been used with great success in reducing the need for chemicals in agriculture while working to optimize plant health.  Among Indoor farmers, especially hydroponic greenhouse growers, and more specifically high-tech Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), such as the type of farming Village Farms growers engage, an IPM program was developed and implemented with great success in the greenhouse industry thanks in large part to the contribution of Village Farms.  Here is a bit of a story about how the good bugs fight the bad bugs, and how Village Farms was on the front lines of this from the start, fighting the good fight, and because of this, today we continue to grow healthy plants that blossom into tasty, flavorful fruits and vegetables.

Village Farms’ farmers, (we call them growers) monitor every aspect of the plants growth to make certain crops are healthy and that their fruit is safe to eat. One such person on the helm of this noble endeavor is Mike Bledsoe, Ph.D., who is the Vice President of Food Safety & Regulatory Affairs at Village Farms.  Mike was instrumental in the design and development of Village Farm’s Food Safety Program that he helped establish from the very beginning and now oversees. With a Ph.D. in Entomology along with an extensive experience within the pest management sector he helped develop a pesticide registration solution for the greenhouse industry at large.   Dr. Bledsoe, in conjunction with the IR-4 Project, who supports registrations for specialty crops like tomatoes, have worked to register biologicals for the edible plant industry.  Today, the Food Safety team headed up by Dr. Bledsoe, work with our growers on our IPM program, implemented in all our greenhouses in North America.  The program focuses on stringent protocols to determine the best plan of action for the plants well-being. All this effort ensures that the food we grow, market, and distribute is 100% healthy for you and your family.

Yamilee Galindo Colomo, Village Farms Food Safety team member in Texas.

Among the many insects that are known to be a farmer’s friend, Bees are the most popular helper bugs on Earth. These prolific pollinators are responsible for pollinating about 75 percent of the world’s crops that in-turn help feed millions of people. Village Farms employs about two Bumble beehives per acre in our greenhouses to pollinate our plants and keep them thriving. But bees are not the only insects that are working to keep our crops healthy. Tons of tiny, microscopic helper bugs, like wasps, play in a huge role in keeping bad hungry bugs off our crops. These are examples of the beneficial bugs that are part of Village Farms’ IPM program.

Village Farms IPM program uses the gentlest approach possible to deter bad bugs from our crops. The goal of IPM is to respond to harmful pests with effective, safe, low risk options. When appropriate, Village Farms administers Organic pesticides on all our crops, so that they can grow healthily and free of harmful chemicals. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved pesticides, we use, have a very short half-life; meaning no residual chemicals are left by the time Village Farms produce hits the grocery store shelves. These IPM solutions allow for healthy, bountiful harvests. This makes Village Farms a safe choice.

The wide variety of IPM methods make it possible for Village Farms to ensure that food quality and safety always come first. When you think about it, IPM can be utilized to the fullest in Village Farms greenhouses. The glass enclosure around the plants allows for our growers to account for many variables. The temperature, amount of water to the plant and sunlight exposure, and more can be modified in our greenhouses to allow for optimal growth. This allows for more efficient use of resources. For example, the beneficial bugs that Village Farms use are contained within the glass greenhouse. The enclosed greenhouse environment makes certain that all the beneficial insects continue working to protect the crops.

Dr. Mike Bledsoe, Vice President of Food Safety & Regulatory Affairs.

Protecting Pollinators is an important goal for Village Farms, and the company cares about the quality of the food you and your family consume. Dr. Bledsoe reflects, “Village Farms’ IPM program has made an enormous impact on the industry. The work we have done over the past several decades has made greenhouse growing throughout North America, an even more sustainable growing practice. We have been able to stay ahead of the growing safety expectations that our customers now require. There will always be ongoing research to strategize which solutions will be most effective in minimizing exposure to crop disease to keep our crops healthy and safe for the global community.”

Food safety is something Village Farms cares about deeply.  Growing food for human consumption carries a huge responsibility that Village Farms has taken seriously during its 30-plus years in the business of growing fresh fruits and vegetables. The company’s food safety program and environmentally friendly growing methods are best summarized as innovative in doing good for people and the planet as well as all of its creatures big and small.  To find out more about Village Farms’ growing methods, and sustainability growing practices, check out our Good for the Earth program!

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Sustainability

Village Farms New Crop and New Packaging Continues Good for the Earth Trend

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As seen on The Produce News

Village Farms reports their Spring greenhouse grown crop of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers is looking fantastic in their northern most Canadian locations of British Columbia and Ontario. Currently planted are their exclusive specialty tomatoes, including Heavenly Villagio Marzano, Cabernet Estate Reserve, Cherry No 9, Maverick Mix, Lip Smackn’ Grape, Lorabella  Blossom and Mini Sensations, that will all begin to be harvested as soon as March. Sinfully Sweet Campari, Juicy Beefsteaks, Delectable TOV, Savory Roma, Exquisite Heirloom tomatoes, as well as, Sweet Bells peppers, Scrumptious Mini cucumbers, and Luscious Long English cucumbers will all be vine-ripened and ready to ship from these locations.​​​​

Village Farms’ sustainable growing methods in their environmentally friendly all glass climate controlled hydroponic greenhouses offer produce that is picked fresh daily to deliver to its dedicated retail partners, or as the company likes to tout, “From Our House to your Home” Village Farms Vice President & Regional Facility Manager at its Delta, BC greenhouse, Dirk de Jong, says that the crop is looking really healthy and happy.  And he contributes this to the weather being favorable with the right amount of sunny days.

Also available will be Village Farms’ newest variety Sensational Sara, which is going into its second season, and the company reports demand is strong.  Sensational Sara is a novel tomato variety with a stunning deep red color inside and out. With a juicy sweet flesh and vibrant red colored inside, Sensational Sara’s flavor is best described as a perfect natural balance of sugar to acid ratio.  This new tomato is bigger than a cocktail but smaller than a TOV, with an extremely sturdy deep green vine.  Village Farms is expecting Sensational Sara to be a ‘change agent’ in the tomato category, bringing more versatility to the TOV variety segment, long considered a commodity tomato.  According to Bret Wiley, Senior Vice President Sales and Sales Operations for Village Farms, “We are not surprised our newest tomato Sensational Sara has been a hit, the initial launch was strong with our retail partners offering the variety.  Consumer response has been positive, and people really like the unique flavor.  We are planning additional acreage and have key retailers already lined up for a full ramp up this Spring and Summer”. 

Sensational Sara is a versatile tomato, great as a slicer, handy for sandwiches or salads, and it is a phenomenal cooking tomato.  Roasting, grilling, sautéing or saucing brings out this tomato’s deep complex flavor.  And the company reports shelf-life for Sensational Sara is 21 days.

Just like all of Village Farms’ exclusive tomato varieties, Sensational Sara, is harvested by hand. This variety is picked and packed on-the-vine for maximum flavor and grows with 6 to 7 fruit per truss.  Sustainably grown in Village Farms’ lush indoor hydroponic glass greenhouse gardens, that are a controlled environment agricultural approach, which achieves unsurpassed quality and Garden Fresh Flavor.

Village Farms is offering Sensation Sara packaged in an innovative one-pound environmentally friendly box that is biodegradable and 100% recyclable. The company says sustainable packaging interest has been on the rise with retailers due to pressing consumer demand and there is increasing interest in the company’s offerings. Helen L. Aquino, Director of Brand Marketing & Communication for Village Farms says, “Sustainable packaging is the wave of future, but has its challenges from consistent supply to adapting operationally. We have tested numerous sustainable packaging types over the past few years. One of the best features about this new box is that it intuitively looks environmentally-friendly, has ample room for brand messaging, shows off the product well, and holds up to the rigors of the supply chain.”

Sustainability is something Village Farms has lived by and has always taken seriously during its 30-plus years in the business.  The company’s environmentally friendly growing methods are best summed up as ‘Good for the Earth’ can grow more food on less land while using less of earths precious resources, like water, and doing so much more efficiently environmentally.  To find out more about Village Farms and how the company grows, as well as having a look at their full line of product offerings, please visit www.villagefarms.com or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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Sustainability

Sensational Sara Shocks the Tomato World with Hypnotic Beauty, True Flavor, & Sublime Versatility

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Village Farms is pleased to introduce its newest exclusive tomato variety, Sensational Sara®. The question begs asking, who is Sara and why is she sensational? Sensational Sara® is a novel tomato variety with a stunning deep red color inside and out. One slice through her juicy sweet flesh reveals her vibrant color that is simply mesmerizing. Her flavor is best described as a perfect natural balance of sugar to acid ratio. She’s bigger than a cocktail but smaller than a TOV with a super-hero sturdy vibrant green vine. Village Farms vaunts that one could think of her as the love child of their Delectable TOV® and Sinfully Sweet Campari® varieties.

Sensational Sara®, just like all of Village Farms’ exclusive tomato varieties, is harvested by hand. This variety is picked and packed on-the-vine for maximum flavor and grows with 6 to 7 fruit per truss. Sustainably grown in Village Farms’ lush indoor hydroponic glass greenhouse gardens, a controlled environment agricultural approach that achieves unsurpassed quality and Garden Fresh Flavor®.

She’s is super versatile as a great slicer, and handy for sandwiches or salads, but the best part is that she is a phenomenal cooking tomato. Try roasting, grilling, sautéing or saucing her to experience her deep complex flavor. Her pure flavor is best experienced when roasted, grilled, or sautéed. Shelf-life for Sensational Sara® is a whopping 21 days.

According to Debi Street, VP of Variety Development & Innovation, who searches the world over for exclusive and unique varietals for Village Farms, “I am flattered that the seed companies I have established great relationships with over the years invite me to peak into their secret gardens where literally the seeds of innovation are blossoming. When I first saw Sensational Sara I was stunned by her beautiful red color and juicy sweet flavor. Her taste profile, versatility, and shelf life are all a win-win and total game changer for our retail partners with this consumer-centric driven tomato.”

Sensational Sara® is packed in a 1lb recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable container with 8 units to the case. Another reason why Village Farms’ is Good for the Earth®.

For more information on Sensation Sara® and how Village Farms is driving great flavor from its unique and exclusive varieties such as Heavenly Villagio Marzano®, the one, the only, and the original authentic mini San Marzano tomato and our new environmentally friendly sustainable packaging options come visit us at New York Produce Show online.  You can also explore our website for fun facts about who we are and why it Takes a Village® to make the world of fruits and vegetables a better place to eat, along with lots of delicious recipe ideas.

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Village Farms’ Clean Energy Subsidiary Renews and Extends Vancouver Landfill Gas Contract to Transition to Renewable Natural Gas Model

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VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 10, 2020 /CNW/ – Village Farms International, Inc. (“Village Farms” or the “Company”) (TSX: VFF) (NASDAQ: VFF) today announced Village Farms’ wholly owned subsidiary, Village Farms Clean Energy, Inc. (“VFCE”), has renewed and extended its existing contract with the City of Vancouver under which VFCE receives landfill gas captured by the City of Vancouver at the City’s landfill site in Delta, BC (the “COV LFG Contract”). The 20-year extension period, with an option for an additional five-year extension period, commences upon start-up of the Delta RNG Project commercial operations.

The renewed and extended COV LFG Contract enables Village Farms to transition VFCE to a more attractive long-term business model based on the conversion of landfill gas to high-demand Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) (the “Delta RNG Project”), which will also generate food-grade liquid CO2, significantly reducing Village Farms’ and Pure Sunfarms’ reliance on natural gas to produce CO2 in their operations. The reduction in natural gas requirements is expected to eliminate 28,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted through natural gas production, or the equivalent of taking more than 6,000 automobiles off the road, annually.

VFCE has entered into a partnership with Mas Energy, LLC (“Mas Energy”) for the Delta RNG Project, under which Mas Energy will design, build, finance (including all capital expenditure for construction), own and operate the Delta RNG facility.

“Throughout our history, Village Farms has been committed to environmental sustainability and clean agricultural technologies,” said Michael DeGiglio, CEO, Village Farms. “The Delta RNG Project will allow Village Farms to take this commitment to the next level to meet the evolving energy needs of the region and further contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the Fraser Valley, while the City of Vancouver will  benefit from higher beneficial landfill gas utilization. Village Farms’ and especially Pure Sunfarms’ Delta greenhouses, will benefit from a reduced reliance on fossil fuel-sourced natural gas, as well as an improved earnings profile, with lower ongoing capital expenditure requirements. It’s a win-win-win for the region, our Company and our shareholders.”

“The City of Vancouver is pleased to continue our longstanding partnership with Village Farms for beneficial use of landfill gas from the Vancouver Landfill. Their new venture to convert the landfill gas into Renewable Natural Gas supports our on-going efforts to address the climate emergency and cut carbon pollution in Vancouver by 50% by 2030,” said Albert Shamess, Director of Zero Waste and Resource Recovery, City of Vancouver.

“Mas Energy is proud to partner with Village Farms and the City of Vancouver on this exciting project,” said Michael Hall, Principal at Mas Energy. “We look forward to starting site activities very soon and delivering the benefits of cleaner energy and air to the citizens of the Vancouver region for a long time to come.”

The Delta RNG Project is subject to additional regulatory approvals, which the Company expects to be received in the first half of 2021, potentially leading to operational start up as early as the first half of 2022.

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Why Some Greenhouses Are Sourcing Landfill Gas

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As seen on Waste 360

by Arlene Karidis

British Columbia is mandated to have 75 percent landfill gas collection efficiency, and to comply with this mandate, landfills are partnering with greenhouses.

One of these landfills, Vancouver Landfill, has formed a relationship with Village Farms International, designers and operators of greenhouses in North America that also sell produce. Vancouver Landfill sells about 55 percent of its gas to Village Farms, which uses it to heat one of its greenhouses while generating electricity for Canadian electric utility BC Hydro.

Heating is among these plant growers’ highest expenses, and they require a lot of energy for a relatively small footprint. Further, they typically prioritize reducing their carbon footprint, so a cheaper, cleaner alternative to natural gas appeals to them.
These projects aren’t considered big moneymakers for landfills, but they benefit too.

“We receive $300,000 a year from this project, which is not much considering our capital costs for gas collection,” says Lynn Belanger, manager of transfer and landfill operations for the city of Vancouver in British Columbia. “But we are beneficially using gas that would otherwise be flared. The greenhouse had a need and was close by, making it economically viable for both them and us.”

With this project, the city of Vancouver is projected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19,000-metric tons a year, according to a recent study , and Village Farms creates about 7.2 mw of electricity for the grid, while finding a use for waste heat generated during the conversion to grow its plants.

Co-location of the landfill and greenhouse is key to conserving energy and minimizing materials required to make pipeline. But there are other considerations, as well as challenges.

“Generally, greenhouses grow plants year-round. And growing in cold weather is typically the greenhouses’ biggest battle because it requires a lot of heat without interruptions,” says Curt Publow, environmental compliance manager for South Side Landfill in Indianapolis, which houses Crossroads Greenhouse, a 6.5-acre operation using the facility’s landfill gas for heat.

Maintaining these projects is a full-time job, says Timm Muth, director of Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, N.C., which started with a landfill gas project to heat art studios at the energy park at the landfill and to power the studios’ equipment.

“We built a greenhouse adjacent to the landfill and heated it for three years with no technical problems,” says Muth. “But as we expanded the art studio, it became impossible to run both operations. When the boiler came on to heat the greenhouse, it would cause a gas pressure drop that impacted the studio. And when the greenhouse boiler shut off, the pressure was too high, which caused the gas system to shut down.”
There are also other landfill gas/greenhouse projects around the U.S., such as the ones involving Rutgers EcoComplex in Burlington, N.J.; Five Oaks Landfill in Taylorsville, Ill.; Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority in Troy, Pa.; and Springfield Sanitary Landfill in Greene County, Miss.

Success of these projects is dependent on having a greenhouse manager and an expert to manage the landfill gas system working as partners to ensure supply and flow continues in a way that works for both the landfill and greenhouse.

“If we are doing maintenance on the gas collection side, we work closely with the greenhouse,” says Belanger. “Should our work impact the greenhouse’s flow, we would coordinate so the greenhouse can do maintenance at the same time to minimize down time.”

Still, there may be short periods where gas is not available, so having a backup fuel source is critical, says Dave Specca, assistant director for controlled environment agriculture and bioenergy at Rutgers EcoComplex Clean Energy Innovation Center. The EcoComplex uses landfill gas to heat a greenhouse adjacent to the landfill in a business incubator for greenhouse startups.

“The key to making it work for both the landfill/municipality and the greenhouse is a well-written, long-term contract where both the greenhouse and the landfill can recover their investment,” says Specca. “A reliable supply of landfill gas is equally important. Ideally, it should be available 85 to 95 percent of the time.”

Southside Landfill has limited options for use of landfill gas, says Publow. Not only does the greenhouse project provide an alternative to flaring some of it and a small income, it has boosted the public image of both the disposal site and the greenhouse.

Collectively, Publow says, the partners are seeing that this renewable, existing energy source is put to beneficial use. And it’s done locally to cut emissions and grow plants in the community.

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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.

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Sustainability

Earth Day is Every Day

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by A Couple Cooks

Alex and I were born in the 1980’s; we were those 8-year-olds who planted trees for Earth Day and worried about alternative fuel sources. But it wasn’t until adulthood that we realized that the food we eat can also affect the Earth–in both positive and negative ways. Today we’re foodies who typically wouldn’t be caught dead making a dish with out of season, non-local tomatoes. We stand in support of our local farmers and against out-of-season, tasteless big-box store tomatoes. However, at the same time: we realize that in order to feed our world, we need diversity in food growing practices. As idealistic as it sounds, we’re not going to feed the world with 100% local veggie farmers.

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It’s estimated that by 2050 we’ll have an additional 2 billion people in this world, and to feed them we’ll need to double the amount of crops we grow. To make that happen, Alex and I believe that organizations of all kinds are going to have to lean and green up their growing practices: from small and local farmers to large and national businesses.

Recipe: Heavenly Villagio Marzano® Chickpea Fattoush Nourish Bowl

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To celebrate Earth Day this year, we’ve teamed up with Village Farms to create a recipe with their greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Yes, we’re all about local, soil-grown summer tomatoes. At the same time, growing tomatoes using hydroponics (growing in water) in a greenhouse allows for the season to be extended. And using sustainable growing practices and avoiding chemicals makes Village Farms a viable option for fresh produce year round. A couple points that stuck out to us about Village Farms’ practices:

  • They use 86% less water compared to the average tomato grown outdoors.
  • They use 97% less land to grow the same amount of tomatoes grown outdoors.
  • Beneficial insects to control pests and stimulate healthy plant growth, instead of harmful chemicals.
  • These growing methods result in ripe, juicy flavorful tomatoes (not tasteless and mealy)

To celebrate Earth Day, we’ve created this chickpea fattoush bowl featuring Heavenly Villagio Marzano®. Fattoush is a Lebanese salad that’s a mix of herbs, cucumber, tomatoes, and crispy pita pieces, brightened with the flavor of sumac, a traditional spice. This recipe is a nourish bowl inspired by the concept of fattoush; we’ve added spiced chickpeas to make it more filling. Since sumac is a unique spice, we’ve used lemon zest here to mimic its tart flavor–but if you prefer to be authentic, you can find it online! We tried it with both sumac and lemon zest, and enjoyed it both ways. We hope you’ll enjoy the recipe — and would love to hear your thoughts on feeding the world!

This post and recipe were created exclusively for Village Farms and originally appeared on A Couple Cooks.

Sustainability

Village Farms, Solar City, MP2 Announce Monahans Solar Project

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Solar Project Announcement – April 2016

Monahans, TX, April 5, 2016 – Village Farms L.P. (“Village Farms”) the U.S. operating subsidiary of Village Farms International, Inc. (TSX:VFF) (OTCQX:VFFIF), SolarCity and MP2 Energy have agreed to build a 2 megawatt solar array adjacent to Village Farm’s 30 acre Permian Basin Division greenhouse in Monahans, Texas. The solar system is expected to provide the facility with nearly all of its daytime electricity needs and generate more than 82 million kilowatt-hours of power over the life of the system.

Through a power purchase agreement, Village Farms will pay SolarCity for the electricity the solar installation generates. The project allows Village Farms to fix its daytime electricity costs at a low rate, comparable to its current electricity rate, and avoid future increases in energy, demand, or congestion charges. SolarCity will fund, design, engineer, build and maintain the installation. Legend Energy Advisors, a full-service energy consulting firm that assists with a range of supply and demand side energy services, also played a key role in the project that not only meets the load needs of Village Farms but also makes the system economically viable even in the often-volatile Texas energy market.

The project will take advantage of net metering, which allows any solar power generation in excess of the greenhouse’s needs to be sold back to MP2 Energy, Village Farms’ power supplier. MP2 Energy will then credit Village Farms for the excess energy, and supply the remaining power to the site. The long term of the power purchase agreement and power supply, backed by SolarCity’s performance guarantee, will lock in low rates and protect Village Farms from future increases. The solar array system is also a notable new source of renewable power in Texas. Despite the state’s status as one of the largest energy producers in the nation, additional energy capacity infrastructure is needed as demand continues to increase, and renewable energy facilities are expected to play a key role in providing new sources of power.

Michael DeGiglio, Chief Executive Officer of Village Farms, stated: “We are excited to announce our next renewable energy development, which not only enhances one of our strategic priorities in supporting our core sustainable growing practices, but also locks in our daytime electricity costs at our Permian Basin facility, one of the world’s most advanced hi-tech greenhouses, for the next 20 years.”

He went on to say “I don’t know of any other controlled environmental growing facility globally whose electrical supply is provided from solar energy during the day and substantively from wind power during
the night. It is also a progressive and great addition to our other renewable energy projects such as our British Columbia methane 7 Mw co-generation facility running at our VF Clean Energy powerhouse, as well as the Quadrogen fuel cell project which will produce hydrogen, CO2, heat and electricity, once the project is completed. Growing fresh produce that is safe and great tasting, while using efficient and renewable energy and less water is what we do at Village Farms and we are proud to be Good for the Earth.”

“We are very excited to be one of the initial commercial projects for SolarCity in the state of Texas.”

About Village Farms
Village Farms is one of the largest producers, marketers and distributors of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers in North America. This premium product as well as premium product produced under exclusive arrangements with other greenhouse producers is grown in sophisticated, highly efficient and intensive agricultural greenhouse facilities located in Texas and British Columbia. Product is marketed and distributed under the Village Farms® brand primarily to retail grocers and dedicated fresh food distributors throughout the United States and Canada. Since its inception, Village Farms has been guided by friendly growing methods, growing produce vegetables 365 days a year from its facilities that are healthier for people and the planet. Village Farms is Good for the Earth®.

About MP2 Energy
MP2 Energy is a full service power company, serving approximately 900MW to customers in Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The top-tier company integrates capabilities across its core services from plant development, plant management, demand response and retail electric supply to the end-use customer. The company handles all aspects of power markets, such as asset management, commodity hedging, solar installation and offtake, wind and distributed generation. MP2 is a member of the 2014 Aggie 100, which honors the world’s fastest-growing companies headed by Texas A&M graduates. For more information visit www.mp2energy.com.

About Legend Energy Advisors
Legend Energy Advisors is a full-service energy consulting firm with services ranging from electricity and natural gas procurement to implementing complex demand side solutions. The company has extensive experience in the energy markets helping clients reduce commodity price risk and capitalize on demand side opportunities. Successful projects include pipeline installations, generation asset management, power quality improvement, lighting upgrades, solar energy installation, real-time data monitoring and reporting, and a host of billing, tariff, and regulatory services. Legend is committed to understanding each customer’s unique challenges, and working with them to design customized energy solutions which create demonstrable value. For more information visit www.LegendEA.com.
About SolarCity
SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) provides clean energy. The company has disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills. SolarCity gives customers control of their energy costs to protect them from rising rates. The company makes solar energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting to monitoring and maintenance. Visit the company online at www.solarcity.com and follow the company on Facebook & Twitter.

About Quadrogen
Quadrogen Power Systems, Inc. designs, builds and installs high performance biogas clean-up and upgrading solutions capable of purifying renewable fuels from any source. The clean-up and upgrading technologies are modular and scalable to cost effectively purify landfill gas, digester gas, or syngas. The company is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada with offices in California, USA and Pune, India. More information is available at wwww.quadrogen.com.

Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains certain “forward looking statements”. These statements relate to future events or future performance and reflect the various party’s expectations, results of operations, performance, business prospects, opportunities, industry performance and trends. These forward looking statements reflect the party’s current internal projections, expectations or beliefs and are based on information currently available. In some cases, forward looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “may”, “will”, “should”, “expect”, “plan”, “anticipate”, “believe”,
“estimate”, “predict” , “potential”, “continue” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. A number of factors could cause actual events or results to differ materially from the results discussed in the forward looking statements. In evaluating these statements, you should specifically consider various factors, including, but not limited to, such risks and uncertainties as availability of resource, regulatory requirements and all of the other “Risk Factors” set out in the Village Farms annual information form and management’s discussion and analysis for the year ended December 31, 2015, which is available electronically at www.sedar.com. Actual results may differ materially from any forward looking statement. Although the parties believe that the forward looking statements contained in this press release are based upon reasonable assumptions, you cannot be assured that actual results will be consistent with these forward looking statements. These forward looking statements are made as of the date of this press release, and other than as specifically required by applicable law, the parties assume no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances.

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

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Sustainability

Delta greenhouse already generates heat, electricity from waste

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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

Sustainability

High end technology takes Village Farms’ re-opened Marfa Greenhouse to the next level

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This summer, Village Farms proudly reopened a reconstructed phase of their Marfa greenhouses in West Texas. The facility is completely renewed and back in production. Village Farms Texas Regional manager Jan Korteland was so kind as to give us an update about the new greenhouse.

In September 2013, Village Farms finally announced that they were back in growth mode after completing their insurance settlement from the devastating hail storm on May 31, 2012. The rounding off of the settlement approved plans to rebuild 8 hectares of the remaining 16 hectares of greenhouses that remained damaged from the hail storm in Marfa. The first 16 hectares had already been repaired and was back in production in December of 2012. The repair plans started immediately and included multiple technology enhancements, such as raising the height of the facility, which modernized the structure and extended its useful life and increased its productivity.

The working crews immediately started reconstruction in October 2013 and they did a good job completing the refitted Marfa greenhouse on time. The greenhouse was finished and commenced harvesting in July and is now in full production. “We planted our new crops on the first of May this year”, said Korteland, the Texas Regional Manager at Village Farms. Korteland is happy with the new greenhouse and the new crop is growing perfectly in the new structure. “It’s almost as if we are growing inside a completely new structure.”

Raising the structure

The original Marfa structure stems from 1998. After the hail storm, Village Farms decided to refit the greenhouse with the latest technology. The Dutch company T.C. van den Dool raised the height of the structure with 1.90 meters (six feet); from a height of 4.60 meters to height of 6.50 meters and a new gutter system was installed. “We are now growing on this new IV gutter from FormFlex with a width of 32 centimeters, which enables us to place to substrate slabs next to each other; so we can continue to cultivate a new crop on a new slab by the end of each growing season. We are very happy about this new advanced gutter system.”

Fog system

The new greenhouse is now also equipped with a totally new irrigation system and a high pressure fog system (HPF). According to Korteland, the HPF provides a perfect extra tool to steer the crop. “This works perfect, especially in the higher structure. When the plant suffers from stress, we can use the fogging system to cool down the crop. It’s a perfect tool, yet you have to know how to use it. Keep a close eye on the crop and think carefully when, how you use it.”

At this moment the crops inside the Marfa greenhouses are in excellent shape. “The new greenhouse and technology are giving us the perfect tools to grow the best crops”, said Korteland. This year, Village Farms started the new crop at a different time than normal. So far, production and quality has been better than expected.

Diffuse light

Village Farms is always looking for the right supplies and tools to achieve the best result, and Korteland is aware and up to date with all of the latest tools that are available on the market, such as ReduHeat and ReduFuse coatings. “Each time we are examining if we should us any coatings on our roof or not. In some practical trials, ReduHeat proved to be a good solution, but we decided not to use it this year due to the fact that we had many rain showers during the summer, which gave us many darker days than normal. We were concerned that we would lose too much light during the summer so we decided not apply ReduHeat this year.

Village Farm’s greenhouse has a shading cloth that provides Korteland with a high grade light diffusion inside the greenhouse. According to the grower, the cloth is only used during the time of planting the new crop. “In this period of the year we have too much light inside the greenhouse, and we need to protect the young plants. We use the shade cloth until the fourth cluster is flowering and then again in the winter at night as an energy screen.

Growing Substrate

Korteland furthermore explained that he is using coir substrate in the Marfa and Ft. Davis, Texas greenhouses. “We are using 100% Riococo growbags in these two locations although our other facilities, locations in Texas and Canada use a mixture of coco and rockwool”, Korteland said. We prefer coco because at the start, the crop temperatures in the greenhouse can run up to 38-40C. The coco slabs stay cooler because of the lower water content, so more oxygen is inside the bag which gives less chance of root diseases.

Additionally we find that for our requirements it is a more forgiving substrate. With the coir from Riococo, we are able to steer the crop perfectly and prevent further damages as in Blossom End Rot. The unique varieties that we grow like Mini San Marzanos can be much more sensitive to these issues. Our customers demand us to pick the highest quality during the entire season, Riococo slabs play a vital role in achieving this.”

In an article that was previously published on HortiDaily.com, Korteland explained why he preferred Riococo above other suppliers. “When you take a closer look at all of the coir that is available around the world, you will find a lot of differences amongst them. For us, Riococo was one of the coir slabs that really stood out for consistency, uniformity and the right mix. Their service and further investment in knowledge, relationship and support had convinced us to start using their slabs on a small acreage and within a few years we switched to 100% Riococo coir slabs”, Korteland said.

Village Farms would like to thanks the following companies for doing a great job Reconstructing Marfa 1:

Mountain High Greenhouse Construction, Gill vd Drift, Colorado
Thomas Larssen, Greenhouse Engineering, Canada
TC van Der Dool Greenhouse Lifting, Leveling and Construction, Maasdijk
PB Techniek Electro and Water Techniek, Maasdijk
Jan Voshol Heating and Electro, Bleiswijk
VerBakel Heating, De Lier
Luiten Greenhouses, De Lier
Hortimax, Canada & Holland
FormFlex, Canada

by Boy de Nijs / Hortidaily.com