The Netherlands, a significant partner in Canada’s greenhouse industry

Canada and the Netherlands have a successful collaboration in the greenhouse industry which has made it a mutually profitable and thriving sector for both countries. In the last five years the total greenhouse surface area in Canada has steadily increased by approximately 1,000,000 square metres a year. Many partners from the greenhouse industry in the Netherlands have provided the technology, irrigation and climate systems to make this possible.

The greenhouse sector in Canada is big. Since 1990, Canada has had the largest concentration of greenhouses in North America and it still does. It is the most significant and fastest growing part of the agricultural sector in Canada. The setting of Canada, with its temperate climate, large areas of land, high presence of innovative growers and proximity to the biggest markets in North America, have made the greenhouse industry what it is today. The Netherlands has played an important role in Canada’s development of its greenhouse sector.

Tomato Greenhouse Canada
©Maureen Sondag
Tomato Greenhouse in Canada

The Canadian Greenhouse Flowers and Plants Sector

In 2018, greenhouse flowers and plants sales in Canada were mainly in potted plants (68%, CAD $831 million), ornamental bedding plants (17%, CAD $205 million), cut flowers (11%, CAD $133 million), and cuttings (4%, CAD $44 million). Most flowers and plants in the greenhouse sector in 2018 were sold in Ontario (51%), British Columbia (22%) and Quebec (22%).

The Canadian Greenhouse Vegetable Sector

In 2018, the Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector produced tomatoes (39%, CAD $557 million), peppers (30%, CAD $422 million), and cucumbers (27%, CAD $383 million) in large amounts, but also eggplants and microgreens. In 2018, the province of Ontario had the biggest share of total greenhouse production with 69%, followed by British Columbia which was accountable for 19% of the total greenhouse production, and Alberta (6%) and Quebec (6%).

Distribution and Type of Greenhouses in Canada

Most of the greenhouses in Canada are in the business of flower and plants, closely followed by greenhouses producing fruits and vegetables. Most greenhouses are established in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

Dutch Partners in the Greenhouse Industry

The Netherlands is an important partner in Canada for the greenhouse industry. Globally, 90% of all greenhouses are of Dutch origin. The triple helix approach in which government, research and industry work together in the Netherlands helps to create a setting of institutional collaboration in which all parties work together to innovate.

With limited land and a rainy climate, the Netherlands has learned to use land and production systems in an efficient and innovative way to maximize yields. This has helped to grow a concentration of specialized greenhouse companies in the Netherlands that is unique in the world. The Netherlands has  more than 90 square kilometers of greenhouse expertise to share! This is roughly 3.5 times the size of the Canadian greenhouses, based on surface area. Dutch innovative and experienced companies can provide tailor-made solutions for specific climates, specific markets and specific crops in Canada.

Due to the relatively high energy prices in the Netherlands, the greenhouse industry has become the most energy efficient in the world. Greenhouses in the Netherlands are efficiently controlled environments, in which water, light, energy, nutrients and temperature can be precisely managed by innovative software. This creates an optimal environment with the most favorable circumstances for the specific crop growing in the greenhouse, and even more importantly, it ensures that only the necessary amount of water and energy are used. This saves space, money and energy. It also maximizes yields: one acre of a tomato greenhouse yields 10 times the amount of tomatoes as one acre of tomatoes in a field.

Looking for a partner?

If you are looking for a partner in the greenhouse industry from the Netherlands please take a look at the website of the AVAG, the Dutch Platform for Greenhouse Suppliers, with more than 70 Dutch companies, also known as the Greenhouse Technology Center of the Netherlands. On the website you can indicate specific criteria to find a partner in the Dutch greenhouse industry that specifically meet your needs for all aspects of the greenhouse sector such as construction, climate, logistics, and technology or irrigation systems: Dutch Partners in the Greenhouse Industry.

A Dutch-Canadian Collaboration

Most of the greenhouses in Canada are built by Dutch greenhouse construction companies, and/or use Dutch greenhouse technology, Dutch irrigation systems, lighting systems, greenhouse floors, and many are assisted by Dutch consultancy companies. From the beginning, the Dutch have established themselves as a strong brand in this niche market. Many of the greenhouse growers in Canada also have Dutch roots.

Canadian partners of the Dutch greenhouse industry have described their Dutch partners as competent, with high levels of expertise and (scientific) knowledge. Also, the active, practical approach of the Dutch is appreciated by the Canadians. Furthermore, Canadians view  the Dutch as reliable and forward-thinking partners, that are always ready to work together on the next innovative project. One project often leads to another and results in long term relationships between Dutch and Canadian partners, a friendly and trusted relationship that can be built upon.

The Dutch in Canada

In the 1950s and the late 1990s hundreds of Dutch families emigrated from the Netherlands to Canada looking for economic opportunities in the agricultural sector in Canada, a country with more land and more freedom. In addition to this, there is a strong Dutch representation in the horticultural sector of Canada, due to the many Dutch companies that visit Canada every year. These visits provide them with the opportunity to meet with their respective Canadian business partners at trade expo’s, conferences and various other sites.

Canadian Greenhouse Conference

The Canadian Greenhouse Conference is an annual conference, which takes places every year in October in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Every year about 30 Dutch companies from the greenhouse industry attend this conference to learn about new developments in the greenhouse industry, as well as take part in the many educational sessions offered. This is an excellent exhibition to meet Dutch distributors in Canada and learn more about the greenhouse industry as a whole.

Greentech in the Netherlands and the Americas

GreenTech is the global meeting place for all professionals involved in horticulture technology. GreenTech focuses on the early stages of the horticulture chain and production issues relevant to growers. GreenTech offers two exhibtions every year:

At the GreenTech companies can learn about crop optimisation, water saving, innovative technologies, vertical farming, organic farming and the latest developments in the industry.

Maureen Sondag
Agricultural Officer
Embassy of the Netherlands
Maureen.Sondag@minbuza.nl