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Greenhouse-grown strawberries offer eco-friendly local option for fruit year-round

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A greenhouse just north of Calgary is harvesting ripe strawberries, months before field-grown strawberries are typically "in season."

Sunterra Greenhouse in Acme, Alta is one of western Canada's newest greenhouse operations to grow strawberries delivered to select store shelves and ready to eat within one day.

The 20-acre facility, which also grows tomatoes, is designed and equipped to grow fruit any time of the year with advanced technology to capture light and heat but without dirt in the ground.

"Even when it's minus 30 degrees outside and blowing winds, we're still able to produce strawberries and create a climate and environment that they thrive," said Amanda Hehr, Sunterra Greenhouse president.

The strawberries grown are a Dutch varietal which are common in Europe but rare in North America.

Hehr says the Dutch or "Duchess" strawberries are harvested ripe, while other types imported from California or Mexico ripen over the course over about a 10-day -emissions-heavy shipment.

She says Sunterra Greenhouse's strawberries are produced for customers who want to eat fresh and local produce that have a reduced impact on the environment.

The Dutch or "Duchess" strawberries are harvested ripe, while other types imported from California or Mexico ripen over the course over about a 10-day -emissions-heavy shipment.

"As people are more sensitive to their own personal carbon footprint, we can start using those calculations," said Hehr.

Sunterra Group's CEO says produce from local greenhouses also avoids issues such as shipping delays.

"I think the coronavirus and all the activities around that, now with the supply chain disruptions, it had become way more apparent that locally-sourced goods have an advantage," said Ray Price.

Price adds products shipped in from across international borders are increasingly expensive.

Sunterra Greenhouse is expected to triple its tomato and strawberry growing operations in the next few years with the goal of using sustainable "agri-tech" growing practices that benefit both the environment and the economy.

The strawberries will on store shelves exclusively at Sunterra Markets by the end of the month, priced at a premium for nearly eight dollars per pound.

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