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Eric Viramontes, chief executive officer of Asociación Mexicana de Horticultura Protegida, a membership organization comprised of Mexican greenhouse growers and known commonly as AMHPAC, told The Produce News that growers there today use state-of-the-art protected agriculture technology, and that the rest of the world is paying attention.

"The greenhouse industry is evolving and growing tremendously fast around the world," said Mr. Viramontes. "And producers everywhere are eager to learn the most sophisticated techniques available. Mexican growers have worked for three or more generations to become the best of the best, and people are partnering with our member companies from all over because of our technologies."

During the past 30 years to 40 years, Mexican producers have learned about greenhouse technology from other nations, including France, Israel, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. During that time, they have also been learning and adapting the technology to their country's growing conditions. The result is that today producers in other countries want to learn from Mexico.

Today, producers in countries such as South Africa are using systems developed in Mexico. And when professionals from China, Japan, France, Israel and many other countries visit Mexico, they admit that the greenhouse industry there is much more advanced than they expected.

"This is something that has not been fully revealed, but it is happening and in a big way in Mexico today," Mr. Viramontes said.

AMHPAC was "born" in 1999 as a membership trade organization. In 2007, it was reengineered to move more aggressively into marketing, and was, Mr. Viramontes said, "reborn."

"We have just under 300 members today," he said. "Among them are about 220 growing operations in 24 Mexican states. Of those, 28 are using protected agriculture practices.

"One of coolest things about Mexico is our God-given great climate," he continued. "That enables our producers to grow in ideal conditions that are perfectly suited to their climate. These operations range from simple technology like shadehouses to highly technical, completely enclosed hydroponic greenhouses."

Mr. Viramontes uses a metaphor to describe the Mexican greenhouse industry. "It is similar to buying the necessary gear for a vacation," he said. "If you're going to a tropical resort, you need lightweight clothing. But if you're going snow skiing, you need completely different gear. This is similar to what happens with protected agriculture. Our growers use the related technology necessary to manage the environment, weather, pests, snow, wind, insects, diseases and all the other elements they need to protect their crops. It's a matter of how you apply technology to your unique conditions. It does not mean that you're using low technology if you're growing in shadehouses; it means you're using the right technology for your conditions."

In 2010, AMHPAC calculated the hectares of greenhouse production in Mexico and estimated that it stands at about 15,000 hectares. Of those, major producers represent about 9,000 hectares. "The remainder are smaller growers who tend to distribute on a local, regional and state level," Mr. Viramontes explained. "We are growing in terms of trying to keep up with the demand. Sometimes producers grow faster than they should, but today our larger growers use calculated growth strategies in their production. In the future, Mexico will likely be the primary supplier for vegetables for the continent."