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Home » Technology & Innovation » Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Utilizes VR to Promote Canada’s Economic Future
joe sbrochhi

Joe Sbrocchi

Executive Director, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

Do you ever stand in a grocery store and wonder where it all comes from? Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Grower (OGVG)’s VR 360 experience begins with this question. Every day, countless Canadians enter their favourite grocery stores wanting to know more about how their food is grown. Recent data from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity suggests that Canadians trust their food system but are growing more and more interested in how their food is produced, and, furthermore, whether it’s produced in a sustainable and ethical manner. A great way to see how your food is grown is to tour the source: a farm.

The goal of the experience was to make it educational, but also a fun ride for everyone.

Welcome to the OGVG VR 360 experience

When you first put on the Oculus virtual reality (VR) goggles’ there’s a sense of anticipation and of not knowing what to expect. Touring a greenhouse farm in VR, how exciting could that be? That’s when the experience commences, and you’re suspended hundreds of feet in the air overlooking the landscape of Leamington and Kingsville, Ont., the heart of greenhouse growing in Canada. In an instant, you quickly swoop down, through the front doors, and into one of the world’s high-tech greenhouses to witness the magic inside.

When you take part in the OGVG VR 360 experience, you get a bird’s-eye view of how the greenhouse farms in Ontario grow safe, affordable, and sustainable food. It’s truly a tour from seed to plate. “The goal of the experience was to make it educational, but also a fun ride for everyone,” says Joe Sbrocchi, Executive Director at OGVG. The production is a culmination of countless hours of footage taken with the latest in 360-degree camera technology and sophisticated drones. It has been shown at many community events, trade shows, and educational gatherings, with participants ranging from retirees and high-level executives to schoolchildren. All have enjoyed the VR experience and have come out with a better understanding of how food is grown in one of North America’s most advanced centres of greenhouse production.

Sadly, not all of us can attend these special events, especially with the current pandemic. This had made the exposure and usage of the VR experience quite difficult, as public events have been limited. For that reason, OGVG has bolstered the offering with a convenient YouTube video, which can be experienced directly from the comforts of your home. Using a smartphone, you can view the OGVG VR 360 tour, complete with all VR capabilities.

The assistance of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs has sparked OGVG to commence its next stage of the 360 experience, where it will focus on various new careers available within the greenhouse sector. Geared toward high school and post-secondary students, this next iteration of the VR experience will showcase an over-the-shoulder view of architects developing greenhouses, growers developing delicious new varieties, and packaging experts developing new and sustainable solutions to address growing environmental concerns. With the new experience poised to be completed by the fall of 2022, OGVG hopes to commence a school tour at that time to inspire the next generation with the possibilities awaiting them within Ontario’s greenhouse produce sector.

Currently, there are more than 3,000 acres of greenhouses growing nutritious tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, with some greenhouses also producing varieties of berries, lettuces, and even microgreens. The possibilities are endless as farms and research facilities are trialling new vegetables and varieties within the protective environment of a high-tech greenhouse. This will help Canada secure its economic future with a stable food supply that’s available all year round. In addition, it will provide new and innovative careers for all Canadians.

In a world that needs to produce more food in sustainable, ethical, and affordable ways, the future will rely on the innovations of Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable farmers. From OGVG’s house to yours, this is what we call Greenhouse Goodness.

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