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How Golden Acre Growers Reduced Total IPM Costs and Avoided Pest Outbreaks




Before

Golden Acres’ greenhouse had a very tight IPM program. Their scouts used paper maps to scout all week and summarize their reports to growers.

  • It typically took 7-10 days between finding a pest and applying the correct treatment Scouts would spend 4-8 hours a week on administrative tasks such as consolidating maps and writing scouting reports

  • Reports became biased if there was higher pressure at the end of the week

  • Growers had to interrupt scouts several times a day to ensure quality control or get a more accurate picture of the pest outbreaks

Solution

After

  • Zero pest outbreaks by reducing time to action to 1-3 days

  • Saved up to 8 hours per week per scout by reducing admin tasks

  • Improved data quality via automatic location tagging

  • Removed all bias from the data

  • Doubled scouting efficiency

  • Seamless management of scouts

  • Reduced work interruptions


Michelle Montgomery is the head grower at Golden Acre Farms in Kingsville, Ontario.

Michelle and her team manage a 45-acre greenhouse facility that predominantly produces English cucumbers. The team at Golden Acres is constantly looking to optimize their operations and maximize their yields. Effective pest management is foundational to that goal. Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, powdery mildew, thrips, and whitefly are all major threats to a cucumber crop; the team has built a diligent IPM program to control these issues.


Recently Michelle and her Assistant Grower, Maggie Watts, sat down with the ecoation team to talk about how their IPM program has evolved from a traditional pen-and-paper system to a data digitization technology platform. Ever since its simple installation, the location-aware system has proven instrumental in helping to track pest outbreaks, plan treatments and analyze results.

“We did establish a very tight scouting program. Our scouts were given paper maps and a section of the greenhouse to cover. They would then go through their sections and put their observations on the paper maps, then on Fridays they would spend the day consolidating the maps and writing a summary report from the week,” explains Michelle.“The reports were then given to the growers and the growing team would review all the maps and create alternative treatment plans as needed."
“With good execution, our time to action was 7 to 10 days using the paper-based system. We knew that the time to action was critical when managing a pest outbreak and we have tried to shorten it, however, the administrative burden of manually collecting data was not efficient,” she explains. “Instead, we adjusted our action methods for our weekly treatments and relied on blanket biological applications with occasional sprays to manage these outbreaks.”

The growing team was constantly in search of tools to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their IPM program. Michelle and her team have tested multiple technologies but they quickly found that sometimes the hassle and challenge of integrating these systems into their growing operation was not ideal for commercial greenhouse use.

“Technology needs to make your life easier and not harder, ultimately it’s all about efficiencies,” says Maggie. “To be usable in a big operation it has to be something that either improves the business or provides an efficiency in the methods used elsewhere.”

The two growers at Golden Acres made the business case and started working with ecoation in a small section of their farm in the summer of 2021. After a few short months of using the platform with favourab