Great Northern is at the forefront of innovative thinking, automation and robotics. Their goal is to achieve the perfect integration between horticulture and technology, using techniques that are environmentally sustainable and responsible, to deliver the best quality tomatoes to its customers. From growing and packaging to shipping and distribution, every step of their process upholds their commitment to uncompromised quality and accuracy.
The 28ha facility grows more than 10 varieties of tomatoes, proudly sold under the Village Farms® label. Last year, they produced 20 million pounds of premium tomatoes. The hydroponic greenhouses create optimum growing conditions: a biologically controlled environment that is both pesticide- and herbicide-free.
With IIVO Guido van het Hof and his team are implementing the Data Driven Growing strategy and
Plant Empowerment cultivation method into their facilities (from 0.00 until 1.20).
IIVO, the ‘next level’ process computer
Great Northern uses the Hoogendoorn Growth Management process computer for their tomato crops. The added value of using the IIVO is mainly for the integration of data resulting in presenting ad-hoc information that drives automation of better decision making, that results in optimizing technology, output and potential. They chose the IIVO because of the vision of Plant Empowerment. As a result, they decided to fully commit to Data Driven Growing.
At the core of IIVO are the principles of Plant Empowerment: a unique cultivation method combining plant physiology and physics. An optimal balance of energy, water and assimilates creates stronger, healthier crops that are less susceptible to pests and diseases.
Data Driven Growing combines powerful algorithms, data from the growing environment and plant physiology, allowing you to make the best decisions for your crops. The continuous flow of data collected during cultivation generates real-time insights into the conditions within your greenhouse and the health of your plants.
The Data Driven Growing system will help respond where necessary to assist Great Northern’s growing team with ad-hoc revisions to set points and avoid delays in their crop steering capabilities while giving us comprehensive data that bring us closer to our ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) ambitions within the organization.
Guido van het Hof, President at Great Northern Hydroponics, tells us; “I am most excited about the functionalities like having real-time overview on the dashboards and automatically adjusting settings. The totality of the concept with its agnostic compatibility with other databases is something that helps us tremendously in our cultivation process.”
When we asked Guido where the passion for horticulture comes from, he answers; “It is a life style not a profession. I grew up in horticulture and most of our team was bitten by the bug once they started working in it.”
Back to the future
“We started in 1998 with the construction of 10Ha and have built this out to 28ha presently. We are looking into expanding our year-round growing operations with vertical integration and product diversity. Overseeing more with the same management team and a fully integrated technology system that drives production, quality, traceability, sustainability for product, staff and business resulting in maximizing potential for these three groups”, adds Guido.
Strengthening their focus on sustainability, in 2008 Great Northern Hydroponics collaborated with sister company Soave Cogeneration, a member of the Soave Agriculture Group. Together they have installed a combined heat and power (CHP) system.
This cogeneration system reduces their energy input costs by creating a new revenue stream from selling electricity into the grid while capturing the byproducts (heat + CO2) for their operations as clean resources. Great Northern returns 12 Megawatts of energy back to the power grid, enough to power 15,000 households across Ontario.
Moreover, Great Northern upholds an SQF (Safe Quality Food) accredited status that combines food safety and quality management practices.
Like Great Northern, we at Hoogendoorn continue to develop. Not only to fulfill the needs of our customers, but also to keep innovating. The feedback we receive from Great Northern and others is therefore extremely important to us.