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Agriculture / News / People

Big Marble Farms is expanding

June 17, 2019

Big Marble Farms will add 10 acres of vegetable greenhouse and a six megawatt (MW) cogeneration power plant to their Medicine Hat greenhouse and packhouse operations.

The expansion is largely driven by consumer demand for year-round, locally grown fresh produce.

“There is an opportunity to supply more winter produce,” says Albert Cramer, partner in Big Marble Farms. “The expansion will also produce tomatoes and cucumbers for this time of the year.”

Once the expansion is complete, Big Marble Farms’s footprint will be 45 acres.

Big Marble farms is a second-generation family greenhouse and packhouse operation which relies on City of Medicine Hat electricity. Their 35 acre greenhouse supplies long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, tomatoes on the vine and beefsteak tomatoes to Sobey’s and Safeway. Produce is sold throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Currently, 187 employees work in roles such as production, packing, management, bookkeeping and government relations. Approximately 35 more employees will be hired due to the expansion.

Big Marble Farms is planning a six MW cogeneration power plant as part of the 10 acre expansion. This addition will ensure adequate electricity supply, while improving the efficiency and sustainability of the greenhouse and packhouse operation.

Big Marble Farms selected Martin Energy Group to supply Siemens generators for the cogeneration plant. Heat created by the generators is recovered and used to heat the greenhouses, reducing the amount of natural gas required to heat the facilities.

“We try to be as energy efficient as possible,” says Cramer. “That’s part of the reason we are generating our own power.”

The power generation project was made possible in part by funding from Energy Efficiency Alberta’s Custom Energy Solutions program, which helps large commercial and industrial facilities reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Big Marble Farms is working with the City of Medicine Hat utility on the possibility of interconnection of the cogeneration plant to maximize its power generation efficiency.

Medicine Hat’s 330 days of annual sunshine and semi-arid desert climate have attracted a cluster of producers using controlled environment agriculture to grow everything from cucumbers to seedlings.

In the city limits, Sunshine Greenhouses supplies year-round tomatoes and Chinook Greenhouses, a 40,000 square foot operation, produces approximately one quarter of Alberta’s seedlings for reforestation projects. Currently, Aurora Cannabis is building a technologically advanced 1.5 million square foot cannabis production facility to supply cannabis to the global market.

Big Marble Farms is the largest producer of cucumbers and tomatoes in Southeast Alberta. The expansion is scheduled to come online in August 2020.