VegPro: A greenhouse project delayed, but which has gained momentum

VegPro International has started the construction of its first greenhouse in Sherrington, Montérégie, which will become operational in the first months of 2025.

This major project was first announced in 2021, with an opening initially planned for 2022. Major lettuce growers explain this delay by a change of ownership and the departure of one of the two Quebec co-founders, which led to the sale of most of the lettuce. Shares of Vision Ridge Partners, an American investment fund. “The new owner wanted to redo all the calculations for the project. This is a big investment,” underlines Anthony Fantin, co-founder and CEO of VegPro.

Investment also increased from a forecast of $55 million to $130 million, an increase that Anthony Fantin attributes primarily to inflation and rising salaries. As stated, the production area has also increased by 4 to 5 hectares compared to the initial project. Production capacity will also increase significantly, from 100,000 pounds of product per week to 150,000 pounds. VegPro plans to grow lettuce, which is its specialty, but of different varieties than those grown on the farm, namely greens.

The greenhouses, which will operate 12 months a year, will be heated and air-conditioned with the windows occasionally opened. The production system will be highly automated.

There is no other like it in Quebec. Everything is automated: sowing, sending to germination chambers, transporting the elements to the greenhouse and harvesting. Everything is placed directly onto a conveyor that will send it into packaging.

Anthony Fantin

The company considered vertical production, i.e. in a completely opaque environment, but abandoned this option. “What we wanted to develop and the domestic production system developed in Europe, we wanted to use,” he says, “It was more interesting and efficient to (partially) use elements of nature. »

The company has taken steps to obtain organic certification, which regulations allow when production takes place in soil rather than hydroponically.

As far as disposal is concerned
With 150,000 pounds of lettuce produced and sold under the Attitude brand, marketing is set to evolve. “In the beginning, we are going to produce for a market within 500 km, so by exporting a part to the United States, until the Quebec market absorbs all of that,” explains the manager. But the ultimate goal of these greenhouses is to serve only the Quebec market and perhaps a bit of the Maritimes. Subsequently, what will retailers do with it? Are they going to send anything to Eastern Ontario? Perhaps. ,

A portion of the greenhouse will be used for research and development. “We will, among other things, work on the production of spinach, which is very difficult to find in Florida,” says Anthony Fantin, referring to this other production site of the company.
“We are always looking for new vegetables that we can supply to Quebec 12 months a year. » A second complex of five hectares is also in the pipeline for Vegpro.

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