Canada is highly self-sustaining when it comes to meat and dairy but relies heavily on imports for produce, making the country vulnerable to shortages and price fluctuations, according to the findings of a 2021 review article published in the scientific journal Agronomy by several University of Guelph researchers and a representative from Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada data shows that Canada is growing more and more in greenhouses every year. In 2020, Canada exported more than half of the greenhouse vegetables it grew to the U.S. at a value of $1.4 billion.

Greenhouses have a lot of potential to feed Canadians more than they already do, the researchers said, but face challenges, including rising costs, labor shortages, and infectious plant pathogens. Still, they’re the largest and fastest growing area of Canadian horticulture, with demand for local food on the rise and technology helping to automate and increase the scale of operations.

Charlebois said in order for year-round growing to be economically sustainable on a larger scale, Canada needs to not only feed itself but also continue to export, especially to the U.S., as it struggles with climate change’s effect on its agricultural sector. “If we do this right, from a food autonomy perspective, I could certainly see Canada being a huge supplier of produce to Americans in maybe a decade or two.”

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