Sunterra Farms hopes to have fresh strawberries by Christmas, grown in the under-construction facility near Acme.
Sunterra, a family owned pork and agricultural operation, has begun building a greenhouse in Kneehill County with an aim to grow tomatoes and strawberries.
“We are building one, it’s 17 and a half acres of tomatoes and two acres of strawberries,” said Sunterra president Ray Price. “It’s a commercial-sized greenhouse. World wide, there are much larger greenhouses than this but this is the first stage of what we hope will be four stages, and if it all goes well the build-out will be about a 70-acre greenhouse.”
He says it makes sense. He knows of many commercial greenhouses in Ontario that are successful.
“It is something we always felt was an opportunity here because we have low-cost energy. People think Alberta winters are cold, and they can be from time to time, but with the energy we have we are in a better position,” said Price. “Ontario has lots of greenhouses that would be of that 20-100 acre size. When we look at them and see how much they can drive efficiency and quality on a dedicated greenhouse basis. We import about 90 per cent of our products, to be able to have a local supply of high-quality produce seems to make sense to us.”
The initial greenhouse when up and running will employ in the area of 50 people in the first phase but could be in the 200 range when it is completed.
They aim to be in production by the end of the year.
“We have always felt that value-added agriculture is important to Alberta, and as difficult as the pandemic has been for everybody,” he said.
“It’s a good news story, we think in Alberta, agriculture is the future in a lot of ways for a growth engine. We have land, we have energy, we have people and we have water, and we should be using those to feed not only Albertans but people around the world.”
The new greenhouse is being built just east of Sunterra’s Soleterra Plant off Highway 575 near Acme, which has been operating for over two years producing fine Italian meat products. Acme Chief Administrative Officer Gary Sawatzky is excited about the development.
“We are happy to see economic development in the area,” said Sawatzky. “It could spur growth for residential and commercial which we are looking forward to.”