By Sheila Phibbs
The Haldimand Press
JARVIS—When you purchase Ontario-grown varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the grocery store, there’s a very good chance they got their start in Jarvis at Proplant Propagation Services.
In operation since 1999, Mike, Paul, and Drew Berkel took ownership of Proplant two years ago. The hydroponic facility starts plants (tomato, cucumber, peppers) from seed for 40 to 50 customers, with 8 to 10 million plants shipped out per year. Mike notes that 80% of their business is in southern Ontario, but they have shipped throughout North America including New York, Colorado, Florida, and Georgia. Proplant employs from 20 to 90 labourers, depending on the season.
Work in the greenhouses is a combination of labour and automation. An automated seeding machine places the seeds into rockwool blocks to germinate. Cucumber plants are set directly on the concrete floor, tight together to start then later separated using a machine that came from the Netherlands. Mike stresses the importance of spacing, “Without space, it’s a thin, weak plant. The quality of the plant is compromised.”