New Growth at Domaine Vincent: A Farmer Who Saw the Light

At first glance, nothing would have suggested Marc Vincent would become a farmer barely 15 years ago. Up to that point, this engineer by trade had been a plant manager for a major industrial company, where electromechanics, automation and state-of-the-art technology were his passion and his bread and butter.

The Start of a Great Adventure

It all began when Marc and his wife, Aude, a horse lover, purchased a farm to board their animals. The orchard on the property in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac in Quebec’s Lower Laurentians had been abandoned. Keenly interested in his newfound country life, Marc decided to bring it back to life. With determination, the would-be apple grower succeeded in overcoming the setbacks caused by his lack of experience, the vagaries of the weather, the rollercoaster market and the lack of labour. In bringing the orchard back to life, Marc had discovered a new vocation.

Crops Sheltered From Bad Weather

The harsh Quebec winters, combined with fluctuating weather conditions caused by global warming, can make life difficult for farmers. The farm, Domaine Vincent, was not spared. Several years in a row, hailstorms wiped out their entire crop of apples. It was then that the idea of growing crops in an environment controlled exclusively by artificial light began to germinate in the fertile mind of this engineer.

Marc’s plan was to start apple tree cuttings indoors to accelerate their growth before transplanting them in the orchard, thereby moving the harvest date forward. At the same time, he experimented with growing lettuce using the same LED system. The results were disappointing.

“I fumbled around for five years before I found the right lighting system,” he admits. “One after another, the specialists I consulted gave me advice that applied to traditional greenhouses. None of these worked in my indoor farm. Then I heard about the LED horticultural lighting solutions by GE Current, a Daintree company, and it changed my life. The business relationship that I formed with Jordan Goulet, cultivation system specialist with the distributor Hort Americas Canada, was also a revelation. He visits me every three weeks. In between visits, I can send him my technical problems, and he always has an answer or a suggestion. With Jordan, learning is a joint venture. He’s as passionate as I am!”

Gone are the hail, rain, frost and drought! The challenges facing the owner of an indoor farm are on a different scale. “When it rains on a field of lettuce, there’s nothing for the farmer to do but wait,” says Marc. “With an indoor farm, you need to be vigilant 24 hours a day. For example, if the air conditioning stops for two hours, the impact will be felt for days. Or if the balance between temperature, light and humidity is disrupted, you need to intervene as soon as possible to avoid losing everything. When growing this type of crop, an automated alarm system is indispensable.”

Guided Visit of an Indoor Farm

A building entirely dedicated to growing crops in a controlled environment necessarily relies on innovation. A visit of the indoor facility is enough to convince anyone. Today, thousands of apple tree cuttings are thriving under a hundred Arize Element® L1000 LED lights with a broad spectrum, including green wavelengths to encourage growth. The trees will take two months to reach the height that they would normally reach in a year in the orchard. “In the end, we gain two years on the entire process, which makes us competitive on the market,” Marc states.

Next to the nursery is the laboratory, an aeroponic growing space where plants laden with peppers grow tall in hydroponic containers under light spectrums adjusted to their successive needs: growth, and then flowering. From the number and size of the peppers hanging from the plants, the experiment appears to be a success!

Facing the pepper plants, Salanova seeds are germinating and growing in huge multi-tier trays, a type of nursery where the lettuce is grown under Arize Life LED light bars specifically calibrated to stimulate germination and growth, up to the final growth stage in the production chamber before being ready for consumption.

This sterile room, with its psychedelic atmosphere, houses dozens of growing towers containing thousands of green oakleaf lettuce heads. Each tower has four Arize Element L1000 fixtures that provide the energy needed to produce the desired color and taste, while maximizing flavor intensity and shelf life. The temperature and humidity are controlled every second. Even sunrises and sunsets are simulated. The roots are also sprayed with a mixed low concentration fertilizer solution. The result is less fertilizer, no pesticides, a 50% reduction in energy consumption, optimized growth and superior quality products. What could be better?

The Future of Agriculture

With such an innovative owner, there is no shortage of projects at Domaine Vincent. Testing will begin shortly on strawberries and romaine lettuce grown aeroponically, and hot peppers will emerge from their mini laboratory to be cultivated on a large scale in a dedicated room. From restoration to indoor design, and from experimentation to innovation, the Domaine Vincent has become a viable business in which fields of Oriental melons, daikon radishes, cucumbers and squash are grown for export, in addition to several varieties of apples distributed to major local food chains. The indoor farm supplies 70,000 heads of lettuce summer and winter to four of the region’s retailers. The Domaine’s five permanent staff are supplemented yearly by 45 seasonal workers.

The right mix of horticultural skills and techniques, supported by a high-performance lighting system and quality advice, is the perfect recipe to ensure a bright future for controlled environment agriculture.

Ready to learn more about how Current’s horticulture lighting can assist your farm? Contact us today.