CULIACAN, SINALOA — Mexican microclimates provide ideal growing conditions and production seasons for greenhouses, an allure for greenhouse growers in more northern climes that are looking to expand their businesses.
One such business is BC Hot House Foods Inc., located in Vancouver, BC, and headed by David Ryall, chief executive officer. Ryall has been in the fresh produce business since 1967 and was a grower involved in forming BC Hot House 40 years ago. The company provided unifying power for independent greenhouse growers around Vancouver, British Columbia.
Consistent with the experience of many other North American shippers, the firm’s retail customers were demanding 12-month supplies, roughly four months longer than British Columbia growers are able to supply.
Thus, BC Hot House began looking south of the U.S. border. Ryall has regularly traveled to meet with Mexican growers for 25 years. Between September and March in recent years, he spends one week per month in Mexico.
Ryall said BC Hot House has moved from simply sourcing with growers for wintertime supplies to contracting with Mexican growers to produce specific varieties to accommodate BC’s product line, which involves several types of tomatoes, cucumbers and colored Bells.
The next step for BC Hot House would be to invest in Mexican production, which is being seriously researched.
BC Hot House currently works with growers in Culiacan, as well as Leon, Guanajuato and in the greenhouse mecca, AgroPark, in Queretaro. Other locations in the highlands north of Mexico City are also either involved or may soon be so.
“We are looking at strawberries in the area,” said Ryall.
He noted that Culiacan’s temperatures exceed any highs at any time of the year north of northern California. Picking from Mexico’s many elevations between 5,600 feet and 6,600 feet provides many microclimate options. Those elevations in Canada involve mountains, he observed. But in Mexico the topography may be plateaus accompanied by “great sun; it really is an outstanding place” to grow greenhouse vegetables.
To constantly boost the taste and flavor of BC’s products, Ryall travels the world to consider new seeds and variety types.
Through the seed company Enza Zaden, the firm is currently marketing a Dutch tomato-on-the-vine variety, Avalantino, which is slightly larger than half the size of the average TOV. Its combination of sweetness and acidity “enabled us to get the best possible flavor in a tomato that is bigger than a cherry tomato.”