Increasing crop health while decreasing waste
SunTech Greenhouses is a boutique hydroponic greenhouse, growing produce without the use of soil, genetically modified organisms, or spray pesticides. They specialize in growing tomatoes and cucumbers but faced the challenges of waste (leaves, trimmings, fallen produce) during regular pruning. In the COIL Activate Circular Accelerator (COIL Activate), SunTech focused on an innovative solution to keep the greenhouse floors clean, reduce damage to crops, and salvage fallen fruit.
Proactive solutions to decrease waste: Through increasing the efficiency of their floor cleaning process by installing a rail mounted vacuum, SunTech is able to save thousands of pounds of produce each month. In fact, with the new installation, they are now saving approximately 10,000lbs of tomatoes from going to waste per month.
Healthier crops: By being able to keep the floors clear of leaves, it is anticipated that the crops will receive better light, and better UV absorption. This will also reduce diseases, mold, and pests which further improve the yield of their crop.
Value from waste: Having the leaves and vines away from the floor allows SunTech to collect and process the fruit, as tomatoes are no longer dropped in the leaves and hidden. Instead, they are cooked and jarred or will be used to create a new product line.
How they made it work
With the support of COIL Activate and the hands-on executive level mentorship SunTech received, they were able to increase efficiencies in their business. SunTech repaired and replaced the floors of their greenhouse in some areas in order to prepare for their new rail mounted vacuum system. This special vacuum was designed to remove and mulch the leaves that are trimmed from the plants. The time and manpower saved from what was previously required to clean the floor can now be used to increase their product lines, create new jobs, and invest in partnerships opportunities.
“We didn’t know what to expect, [our Innovation Guelph mentor] was a great support and mentor. We were able to work towards a solution that will potentially add 5% to our income.” – Corinne Turansky, Operations Manager at SunTech Greenhouses