How Twin Creeks Manages Flushes & Improves Short-Term Yield Forecasting by 12.4% with ecoation


Peppers in a Greenhouse.

Before

The grower started each week by estimating the week’s harvestable peppers based on observation and measurement of select plants. The short-term forecast fluctuated between 10-67% off from the actual harvest. They faced challenges like:

  • Using a method of estimation that was time-consuming and error-prone.

  • Scheduling the right labor was impossible, especially during weeks of flush.

  • Estimating cash flow without accurate data.

  • Consistently fulfilling contracts correctly


Solution

After

  • ​ecoation forecast satisfied marketer's need

  • Grower saves 8 hours a week of work

  • Cashflow and labour can be predicted with ease


Twin Creeks Greenhouse is a family-owned, high-tech 80-acre operation in Watford, Ontario (about an hour outside of the Leamington area) that has been growing sweet peppers since 2016. Owned and operated by Mike Cornelissen and his wife, this highly successful greenhouse business grows red, yellow, and green peppers to meet the demands of various retail and grocery outlets in both Canada and the US. Being located further from the major greenhouse ecosystem in Southern Ontario, the team at Twin Creeks has leaned heavily into technology to improve their growing operation.

The Cornelissen family started the farm in 1953 when his grandfather emigrated to the newly burgeoning agricultural hub of Southwestern Ontario 1953. Mike now runs the day-to-day operations in the greenhouse.

“Originally, my family was involved in the dairy, cash crop, and field cucumber business,” says Mike. “Then after my brother and I graduated from Olds College and came home to the farm, I decided I wanted to move into the greenhouse industry. We built our first phase in 2016. Agriculture is always something that I knew I was going to work in, and as time went by, I decided that greenhouse growing was an area that interested me. After some research, I decided in 2016 to venture fully into this business.”

After visiting some larger greenhouse operations, Mike committed fully to the greenhouse business. Mike built out the farm in four 20-acre phases, reaching the 80-acre operation that he has today. With increasing consumer demand for fresh-grown and local produce, he made the choice to solely grow peppers throughout the facility, despite their reputation as an unpredictable crop.






To help with growing fluctuations and other issues in the business, Mike has always looked to incorporate the latest technology in the greenhouse, something he says comes from his Opa years ago. Even in the early days when the family had started farming, recalls Mike, his Opa was one of the first to use new technology - such as the use of local, geothermal heat during winter in a poultry barn.


“It’s been a natural fit for me, I guess you can say, to adopt technology where we see fit,” says Mike.

“We’ve always been really into technology that we find helps make people’s jobs easier and more efficient, and also ensures that we provide better products for the consumer.”

So, when ecoation approached the team at Twin Creeks farm in 2020 with its unique IPM forecasting solution and data digitization platform, Mike opted to learn more about it. To get started, the team at ecoation – including Customer Success Team Leader Daniel Bateson – traveled to the farm to hear and learn in person from Mike his challenges in IPM and forecasting yield. By early 2021 the ecoation forecasting platform was being used at the farm.


As part of the service package, Mike has regular meetings with ecoation’s Customer Success team who analyze Twin Creeks’ horticultural data on the web app and reports. With the ecoation platform, Mike began to predict and forecast yield production, as well as future pest outbreaks in the crops. With the yield forcast, they can share the yield information in adequate time with their buyers, and ultimately be able to negotiate better prices for their produce.


Previously, Mike had calculated yield and production like most growers - by sending out a staff member to count fruit by post and then average that count over the entire crop. This method, many growers can attest, is not always accurate. By using the ecoation platform, Mike found that yield forecasting became significantly more accurate.




Pepper Counting Software counting and classifying peppers in a greenhouse row.
Pepper Counting Feature in the ecoation Forecasting Platform.

“Once ecoation’s forecasts were calibrated they were consistently more accurate than my own forecasts,”

explains Mike. “ I went from forecasting based on 1-2 plants per acre to forecasting from more than a hundred plants per acre, which helps me deal with variability in the crop. With better predictions, I can secure better prices of my peppers and ensure I am being efficient in my operations.”


Implementing the ecoation platform has had an impact on the bottom line as well, notes Mike. “An accurate forecast as an owner and a grower is very important,” he says.


One of the biggest impacts the platform has had on the business, as Mike noted, is that it has helped him to forecast income and weekly cash flows.


He continues: “Also from a labor standpoint, probably the biggest thing as an owner/grower is to determine what we are going to do with our labor in the weeks ahead – determine how big a pick (we are going to do) and where we are going to move our team around to make them most efficient. That part is very important to us so getting the best forecast we can help with that.”


Growing peppers can be a fruitful and profitable business, but, according to some growing experts, due to the nature of the plant, can be somewhat complicated in terms of predicting yield due to pepper “flushes”. These flushes result in variable and unexpected growth in certain areas of the greenhouse. This can cause fairly significant variations in pepper production to from week to week.


Mike confirms this: “With peppers, we get ‘flushes’. So with the swings in production being quite large – sometimes more than 100 percent per week, it makes it very hard to get an accurate forecast. Especially early in the season, your flush might start ripening more quickly in certain areas of the greenhouse or at the end of the rows. That can make a huge difference in your actual production for the week, vs what you had previously predicted,” he says.


With buyers looking for production numbers on peppers an average of several weeks in advance so they can negotiate pricing – and so that retailers can coordinate selling and marketing of these peppers in the stores – these flushes can cause issues down the line.


With ecoation’s successful yield forecasting platform, this process can become more efficient, and benefit both growers and consumers.


When asked if it was difficult to implement the ecoation IPM and yield forecasting technology in their operation? Mike responded:

“Any issues we had, ecoation was always very quick to resolve – within days or even hours. The system’s uptime has run very well since the beginning. ecoation makes sure everything gets solved.”


 



Are you a greenhouse pepper or tomato grower looking to more accurately forecast yield in your greenhouse? The ecoation IPM and Yield Forecasting Platform have been proven to help.


Take the first step in seeing how the technology works. Click here for your demo.


 

About ecoation:


Established in 2010, ecoation is an award-winning Canadian AgTech Service provider with a forecasting platform that provides actionable insights on IPM, crop balance, and growth as well as yield and production metrics which helps growers multiply their success while having more control and visibility into their operations. With customers all over the world, ecoation is one of the fastest growing AgTech Companies in the Controlled Environment Agriculture sector.


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saber@ecoation.com www.ecoation.com


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