Whole Leaf employees are bagging as much green as they can — romaine, that is. Their southern Alberta greenhouse can produce up to 12 million heads of lettuce per year.
“You know what the climate is like in Canada — you can grow things for six months of the year and it’s hibernation for the other six months. People want their lettuce 12 months of the year,” said company shareholder Howard Kosaka.
His team is trying to fill demand for safe, clean romaine lettuce. It stems from a warning by the Public Health Agency of Canada about an E. coli outbreak linked to the vegetable.
Whole Leaf estimated it is shipping about 30 per cent more lettuce from it’s Coaldale greenhouse compared to normal.
Earlier this week, the agency announced 18 confirmed cases of the illness with three in Ontario and 15 in Quebec.
The Coaldale greenhouse uses technology that allows lettuce to grow without human contact until it’s ready to be harvested.
Agri-Food Canada said there are benefits to growing indoors, especially trying to keep produce away from potential contaminants.
Doef’s Greenhouses near Lacombe sent out a tweet on Thursday, reminding consumers its romaine lettuce is also safe to eat.
Alberta Health Services said there are a number of symptoms that come along with the illness, like vomiting and diarrhea.
According to doctors, the best way to avoid it is to use safe, clean water when washing vegetables.
Whole Leaf spent $60 million on the greenhouse, which was up and running in June 2017.
“We’ve tried to put up a facility that would give the opportunity for people to have salad crops 12 months of the year,” Kosaka said.
It has given the company a real chance to grow. Whole Leaf is expanding its greenhouse from five acres to 10 in early 2019 with the capacity to send out up to 24 million heads of lettuce every year.