Windsor-Essex, Ont. is among Canada’s most important agriculture and agri-business regions, with more than 100 food and beverage processors and 1,500 growers that collectively employ 15,000 people.
A moderate climate (sitting on roughly the same latitude as northern California), long growing season (an average of 212 days a year), enviable access to water, advanced technology, efficient cross-border logistics, and proximity to large U.S. markets combine to make Windsor-Essex a global leader in agri-business.
The range of agriculture production is vast – fruits and vegetables, field crops, specialty crops such as cannabis and beans, livestock, and dairy.
That production is supported by innovation. The Harrow Research and Development Centre, one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s 20 research centres, is among the largest greenhouse research facilities in North America.
And Windsor-Essex’s leadership in automation and advanced manufacturing means its agriculture sector has access to the latest in process optimization and quality control.
“The implementation of innovative technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence applications, and highly advanced lighting systems are making greenhouse vegetable farms state-of-the-art food production facilities, aiding in Canada’s development of a resilient, domestic food supply system, which will facilitate the expansion and rapidity of crop diversification,” says Rachel Boucher, spokesperson for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers.
The organization is based in Leamington, a municipality within Windsor- Essex, which is home to the largest vegetable greenhouse cluster in North America, and second-largest in the world.
At 4,500-plus acres of greenhouse operations, about 80 per cent of Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable acreage is in Windsor-Essex and more than 70 per cent of its production of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers is exported to the U.S.
Another strong segment of agriculture production in the region is wine, with Windsor-Essex being home to 19 wineries. They include the 700-acre Pelee Island Winery which is Canada’s largest private estate winery.
“Pelee Island is the most southern inhabited land in Canada and its uniquely temperate climate, and clay and limestone soil make it ideal for growing grapes,” says vintner and president Walter Schmoranz.
“The Bordeaux region in France has a lot of clay. That has a high capacity to hold water, which does expose the grapes to stress. That means the fruit is typically smaller and more plentiful but it’s also more exciting and interesting. It’s the perfect blend of sugar and acidity.”
Winds off Lake Erie ensure consistent air flow through the vineyards, limiting humidity and possible fungus diseases.
“Essex offers a unique climate, ample water and very rich, fertile and deep soil. We are also seeing the greenhouse industry growing rapidly thanks to the water and sunshine hours we have here year round.”
Many national and multinational companies are headquartered or have significant operations in Windsor-Essex, including ADM Agri-Industries, Tilray (formerly Aphria), Bonduelle, Cavendish Farms, Colio Estate Winery, Diageo Canada, Highbury Canco, Highline Mushrooms, Hiram Walker & Sons, Mastronardi Produce, Mucci Farms, Unico and Windsor Salt.
The list also includes Les Aliments Dainty Foods Inc., which has called Windsor-Essex home since 1967, operating Canada’s only rice milling facility, along with a rice flour mill. Dainty employs about 65 in Windsor and uses the region’s strong rail and highway network and access to marine shipping routes to import approximately 35,000 metric tonnes of rice a year from around the globe.
“Windsor was chosen for the facility location primarily due to its centrality to major travel corridors as well as the skilled labour availability,” says chief financial officer Alban Panolli.
Whether it’s Windsor-Essex’s location within the richest consumer market in the world, unparalleled transportation and logistics strengths, ideal climate, enviable quality of life and skilled workforce, the region offers a huge advantage to agri-business growers and producers.
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