Twin Creeks Greenhouse is a family-owned, high-tech 80-acre operation in Watford, Ontario (about an hour outside of the Leamington area) that has been growing sweet peppers since 2016. Owned and operated by Mike Cornelissen and his wife, this highly successful greenhouse business grows red, yellow, and green peppers to meet the demands of various retail and grocery outlets in both Canada and the US. Being located further from the major greenhouse ecosystem in Southern Ontario, the team at Twin Creeks has leaned heavily into technology to improve their growing operation.
The Cornelissen family started the farm in 1953 when his grandfather emigrated to the newly burgeoning agricultural hub of Southwestern Ontario 1953. Mike now runs the day-to-day operations in the greenhouse.
“Originally, my family was involved in the dairy, cash crop, and field cucumber business,” says Mike. “Then after my brother and I graduated from Olds College and came home to the farm, I decided I wanted to move into the greenhouse industry. We built our first phase in 2016. Agriculture is always something that I knew I was going to work in, and as time went by, I decided that greenhouse growing was an area that interested me. After some research, I decided in 2016 to venture fully into this business.”
After visiting some larger greenhouse operations, Mike committed fully to the greenhouse business. Mike built out the farm in four 20-acre phases, reaching the 80-acre operation that he has today. With increasing consumer demand for fresh-grown and local produce, he made the choice to solely grow peppers throughout the facility, despite their reputation as an unpredictable crop.
To help manage high growth and yield fluctuations, among other business issues, Mike has always looked to incorporate the latest technology in the greenhouse, something he says comes from his Opa years ago. All the way back to the family farm’s early days, Mike recalls his grandfather was typically one of the first to use new technology, such as the use of local, geothermal heat during winter in a poultry barn.
“It’s been a natural fit for me, I guess you can say, to adopt technology where we see fit,” says Mike.
“We’ve always been really into technology that we find helps make people’s jobs easier and more efficient, and also ensures that we provide better products for the consumer.”
When ecoation approached the team at Twin Creeks farm in 2020 with its unique IPM forecasting solution and data digitization platform, Mike didn’t hesitate to learn more. To get started, the teams met at the farm to hear and learn in person from Mike
Mike has regular meetings with ecoation’s Customer Success team who analyze Twin Creeks’ horticultural data. With the ecoation platform, Mike began to predict and accurately forecast yield production, as well as future pest outbreaks in the crops. They can share their yield forecast in adequate time with their buyers and ultimately negotiate better prices.
Previously, Mike had calculated yield and production like most growers: counting fruit by post and then averaging that count over the entire crop. This method, as many growers can attest, is not always accurate. By using the ecoation platform, Mike found that yield forecasting became significantly more accurate.
Pepper Counting Feature in the ecoation Forecasting Platform.
“Once ecoation’s forecasts were calibrated they were consistently more accurate than my own forecasts,” explains Mike.
“ I went from forecasting based on 1-2 plants per acre to forecasting from more than a hundred plants per acre, which helps me deal with variability in the crop. With better predictions, I can secure better prices of my peppers and ensure I am being efficient in my operations.”
Implementing the ecoation platform has had an impact on the bottom line, notes Mike. “An accurate forecast as an owner and a grower is very important,” he says.
One of the biggest impacts the platform has had on the business is the improvement in how to forecast income and weekly cash flows.
He continues: “From a labor standpoint, probably the biggest thing as an owner/grower is to determine what we are going to do with our labor in the weeks ahead – determine how big a pick and where we are going to move our team around to make them most efficient. That part is very important to us getting the best forecast.”
Growing peppers can be a profitable business if you can manage the complications of predicting yield due to pepper “flushes”. These flushes result in variable and unexpected growth in certain areas of the greenhouse.
Mike confirms this: The swings in production being quite large – sometimes more than 100 percent per week – makes it very hard to get an accurate forecast. Especially early in the season, your flush might start ripening more quickly in certain areas of the greenhouse or at the end of the rows. That can make a huge difference in your actual production for the week, vs what you had previously predicted,” he says.
With buyers looking for production numbers on peppers an average of several weeks in advance so that retailers can coordinate the selling and marketing of these peppers in the stores, these flushes can cause issues down the line.
With ecoation’s successful yield forecasting platform, this process can become efficient and benefit both growers and consumers. The implementation process is easier than you might expect.
“Any issues we had, ecoation was always very quick to resolve – within days or even hours. The system’s uptime has run very well since the beginning. ecoation makes sure everything gets solved.”
Are you a greenhouse pepper or tomato grower looking to more accurately forecast yield in your greenhouse? The ecoation IPM and Yield Forecasting Platform have been proven to help.
Take the first step in seeing how the technology works. Click here for your demo.
Established in 2010, ecoation is an award-winning Canadian AgTech Service provider with a forecasting platform that provides actionable insights on IPM, crop balance, and growth as well as yield and production metrics which helps growers multiply their success while having more control and visibility into their operations. With customers all over the world, ecoation is one of the fastest growing AgTech Companies in the Controlled Environment Agriculture sector.
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