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Double Diamond crops are back on track following spring rains

Double Diamond Acres Ltd. in Leamington, ON, was in the middle of its Ontario greenhouse production June 28, and things were running smoothly despite a slow start to the season, Chris Mastronardi, co-owner of the company, told The Produce News.

“We had some wet weather at the start of the season, but things are much better now,” he said. “Cloudy skies prevent the sunlight from coming into the greenhouses, which translates to a little less production. The greenhouse industry relies predominantly on natural light to help the plants grow.

“The weather cleared up nicely in the first few weeks of June, however, so we are up to where we should be in production,” he continued. “And predictions are that we’ll have better weather going forward.”

Mr. Mastronardi noted rainy weather at that time of year in Ontario is highly abnormal, and said he hasn’t seen the start of a season with such conditions in a very long time.

Double Diamond continually trials new items, and Mr. Mastronardi said that there are particularly some tomatoes and peppers that the company has hopes for in the future.

“We are also always working on new packaging,” he said. “We have some packaging options that we introduced this season that have been nicely accepted, and we have others on the drawing table currently, some of which we will likely introduce in the future.

“Customer demands for packaging are a normal part of business,” he continued. “Some want sealed packaging and others want display ready or other open cases. However, we have seen an increase in demand for sealed packages, likely because they eliminate directly product handling at the store end.”

Double Diamond Acres stays on the cutting edge of greenhouse production. It is known for its high-quality beefsteak, cluster and specialty tomatoes, seedless and mini cucumbers and orange, yellow and red bell peppers.

The company continues to focus on efficiencies and sustainability in its greenhouse operation and it maintains the highest food-safety initiatives and certifications. It uses only drinking-quality water for irrigation purposes.

“The water we use for irrigation is the same water we drink,” he said. “It comes from the municipal system, but we go a step further and double check it for food-safety purposes. The plants absorb most of the water, but a little is recycled with ozone treatment. The possibility of bacteria or pathogens infiltrating the produce is eliminated because of the systems we use.”

The company uses no insecticides, and it uses bees for pollination.

“In the balance of nature, there are good bugs and bad bugs,” explained Mr. Mastronardi. “When a pest comes in from outside, scouts in the greenhouse monitor them. These scouts know every gender and species of insect. When the bad bugs reach a certain number, we call a facility that breeds the beneficial bugs that can bring the balance back to where we want it. The company brings the insects in small plastic bags and disperses them throughout the greenhouse. These beneficial bugs go to work on the bad ones, and nature is rebalanced.”

Mr. Mastronardi said that greenhouse vegetable prices are holding this season. The company increases its production on a regular basis, this year included.