Crops & Plants

Growing crops indoors

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More and more of the fresh produce is grown in greenhouses, sometimes year-round. Tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are Canada’s biggest greenhouse crops, but farmers are also growing lettuce, green beans, eggplants, microgreens, and herbs, and increasingly, fruits such as juicy, sweet strawberries, indoors. Canadian greenhouses also produce flowers and potted plants — $2.7 billion worth in 2021 to be specific. Tulips, gerberas, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, and
lilies are among the most popular cut flowers grown in Canada, whereas outdoor geraniums, herbs, and hanging baskets, as well as tropical and green plants, are the leading potted plants. Like field crops, greenhouse vegetables and flowers are grown for both export and for Canadian markets. Southern Ontario has the highest concentration of greenhouses in North America. The province also has the most vegetable greenhouses in Canada, with 755 farms covering 14,163,728 square metres — that’s nearly 3500 acres — as of 2021. Greenhouse growers typically don’t grow crops in soil. Instead, they use hydroponic systems, where plants grow within materials like mineral wool or coconut fibre. Inside the greenhouse, growers provide heat, water, nutrients and extra light to nourish plants. They also use bugs like bumblebees to pollinate plants, and ladybugs to control harmful insects. That consistent indoor climate means no worries about bad weather, and production during 10 out of 12 months of the year.

Other ways to farm inside

Growing food indoors is becoming popular in ways other than by using a greenhouse, as people look to minimize risk from climate change, and to buy more of their food locally. In vertical farming, plants such as lettuce, herbs, and leafy greens, are grown indoors in vertical stacks, instead of side by side the way they grow in a field. Farmers can provide the exact amounts of water, light, and nutrients that each crop needs — and because the crops are growing vertically, a lot of food can be
grown in a small area. Container farming is similar, but it uses smaller, self-contained units that often resemble a shipping container, to grow lettuce, herbs, and leafy greens. This method can be an affordable way for people to grow their own food in areas like Canada’s North, where it’s too cold to grow vegetables most of the year. Container and vertical farms are also being used in urban environments.