Allegro Acres: An Industry Trailblazer in Sustainability
It started in 1999 with a vision; a vision to produce healthy, locally grown food, with a focus on sustainability. Allegro Acres, a family-owned and operated pepper greenhouse located in Ruthven, Ontario, has been trailblazing a path in sustainability and efficiency for over 20 years. Today, Gene Ingratta, President of Allegro Acres talks about what it means to be sustainable in horticulture, the challenges faced by growers in Canada, and the path to further reducing the environmental impact of growing.
Laying the groundwork for a sustainable future
Over the past several years, Allegro Acres has pioneered what it means to live, grow, and work sustainably. The company has implemented numerous sustainability measures at every level of greenhouse operations and in the development of company culture. “For Allegro Acres, our commitment to sustainability is grounded in who we are and how we do business. Our top sustainability priorities right now are employee wellbeing, energy conservation, automation, and overall efficiency”, explains Ingratta.
One thing that sets Allegro Acres apart is their proactive approach to continuous improvement. “We are always trying to be better than we were yesterday. We strive to learn, grow and adapt every day to produce the highest quality product in the most efficient way that we can”, says Ingratta.
Incredible outcomes in efficiency
The proactive approach taken by Allegro Acres has paid off and the results have been incredible. After installing a LUXOUS 1147 screen for energy conservation/light diffusion and an OBSCURA 9950 screen for light abatement, they noticed a 40% savings in heating energy. Further to that, their installation of Sollum’s smart dynamic LED technology for their Canadian winter pepper production has proven a 40% electricity savings over traditional HPS lighting. After installing insect netting, and implementing an Ecoation system last year, Allegro has been able to really pinpoint any areas of concern with pest pressure, and be very proactive with their biological control methods, in turn lowering their overall inputs. To help conserve water usage and keep employees and plants much more comfortable in the warm summer days, a high pressure misting system from MJ TECH was added.
Embracing the challenges along the way
But even for the most tenacious grower, building a business rooted in sustainability is not without its challenges. “It’s in all of our best interests to be as sustainable as we can to ensure a better tomorrow. The core challenges to this include cost, availability, and honest/accurate information. There are government programs available to aid us in mitigating these challenges, but we could always use more help” Ingratta says.
The path ahead
While the operations at Allegro Acres are laser focused, the future of sustainability in the industry as a whole remains unclear. “The industry still has room to improve, we need to focus more on employee well being, both physically and mentally, a more cooperative produce sales sector, a better public understanding of locally grown food, more locally produced automation/technology, and more government support” Ingratta says.
One of the best ways for growers to improve their operations is by learning from other growers and Ingratta had some key tips for others who want to make a push to be more sustainable.
Gene's key tips for sustainable growing: