At Pure Flavor®, we understand that water has never been more precious. That’s why we are so invested in greenhouse growing techniques that utilize cutting-edge water recycling technology.
If you have any doubts about how important water recycling is in agriculture, consider this; it takes about 4 gallons of water to grow one pound of tomatoes in a greenhouse and approximately 415 gallons of water to grow one pound of tomatoes in an amount of water! Are you curious about how this revolutionary technology works? Let’s deep dive into the water at Pure Flavor®’s greenhouses.
To help better explain our water recycling program, we spoke with key team members who are responsible for growing & infrastructure at our facility in Leamington, Ontario. John Secker (VP-Growing Operations), Isaak Fast (Head Grower), and John Neufeld (Project Manager) helped explain the system we use at Pure Flavor® to recycle enormous volumes of water each and every day.
To start, our Leamington facility uses 1.6 million liters of water per day, and we recycle 35% of the water we feed the plants. While we do utilize municipal water, it is essential that we supplement it with recycled water, as the community’s infrastructure cannot support the volume of water we need.
How exactly does the water get recycled?
There are a few steps, but it all begins when we water our crops. Each plant is watered through a drip irrigation system from freshwater, and each plant is overwatered to ensure they take as much as they need. In Leamington, our plants are grown in a medium called Rockwool, enough that any water the plant doesn’t use drips down into the trough system that the plants sit on.
The runoff water (commonly known as ‘leach’) from plants is collected and starts the recycling journey. At this point, the water is called “dirty leach” and needs to be filtered to eliminate bacteria and other particulates before it can be used again. It is stored in tanks while
it is in this state and is filtered as the greenhouses need it.
Once the water is filtered through our UV units to disinfect it with ultraviolet light, it becomes “clean leach” water. The UV process results in no chemicals being used to treat the water. From here, it will have fertilizer & nutrients added to it and be combined with freshwater from the municipality to be given back to the plants. By recycling our excess water, nothing is wasted, and any unused nutrition
(plant fertilizer) goes directly back to the plants. Some of the nutrients we add to our water include calcium, potassium, nitrate, iron, magnesium, and copper. The water is tested bi-weekly offsite to ensure that all quality standards we met.
We’re excited to expand our water recycling capabilities with the upcoming Phase IV expansion of our Leamington greenhouses. The facility will rely exclusively on rainwater, stored in an outdoor pond, that will hold more than 43 million gallons of water. This storage system is state of the art with the pond liner imported from The Netherlands.
It is 163,000 cubic meters and could cover the surface area of 3 football fields. It is the largest pond of its kind to be built in North America!
In our new Phase IV greenhouse, we will be growing organic vegetables which require a filtration system optimal for those products. It will utilize a water pasteurization system, which is used in Kenya to treat drinking water; this method helps protect organics from pathogens and viruses. We are proud to say that we will be the first greenhouse in North America to utilize this system! The pond is fully frost-protected and can be used to recycle water 365 days a year. During the winter, the water is pulled from the bottom three and a half feet of the pond – this is a truly ground-breaking system!
The entire water recycling process can be completed in about 3 hours time!
We hope you have enjoyed learning about our water journey as it is a vital step in growing delicious & sustainable produce. Providing nutritious greenhouse grown fruits & vegetables for families throughout North America with our family and yours for a long time to come is part of our commitment. Responsibly and proactively conserving water is just one step in our growing & sustainability journey.