Farming is an innately labour-intensive industry. With the advent of greenhouse technology leading to increased yields and better quality crops, labour has remained just as essential. It seems only natural, then, that labour is one of the industry’s greatest challenges.
This challenge stems from several factors and applies to all aspects of labour management: from unskilled general labour all the way up to senior management. The greenhouse industry (especially here in Southern Ontario) has been notorious for its use of labourers sourced from abroad. It may seem like a cop-out to try and get cheap labour – but in fact they cost more to hire (transportation and accommodation are provided) and are paid well above the minimum wage.
This issue does not end at the greenhouse doors. Companies are having issues finding management-level employees as well. The greenhouse industry is not everyone’s first thought when an innovative multi-million-dollar enterprise is brought up.
Universities are producing herds of well educated individuals waving CVs looking for work, yet none of them seem to be pointing them towards this sector. How is it that one of Canada’s most dynamic, fastest growing and innovative industries is lacking applicants? Farms are working double time just to meet their obligations.
I myself was no different. I grew up and completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree 50 km from the largest high-tech greenhouse cluster in North America. Not once did it even cross my mind to consider working there: and it’s this very fact which manifests the struggle greenhouse growers are facing today.
How do we get young, determined, hard-working individuals with a drive to make an impact, attracted to working in greenhouses? How do we highlight that this is a rewarding, passionate and exciting long-term career that requires engineers and scientists and labourers alike? Partnerships with universities are integral aspects of fostering talent acquisition. NatureFresh* is establishing programmes with universities to bring students in on co-op like terms, exposing them to the cutting-edge technology and get them excited about careers in horticulture.