Hydroponic operation supplying area of Labrador with year-round lettuce

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on February 13, 2014
Janet and Lorne Patey, of Patey's Farm, talk about hydroponic growing at the Greenhouse Conference in Corner Brook on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.
Geraldine Brophy

For years, the people of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area had to deal with poor quality lettuce. Not anymore.

Lettuce, like the other vegetables trucked into Labrador, was often aged and its quality diminished by the time it reached many households, according to Janet and Lorne Patey.

However, the owners of Patey’s Farm are doing their part to keep the crunch in salads and other meals.

About a year and a half ago, the provincial government gave the farmers an $86,500 term loan to construct a hydroponic greenhouse. Last summer, they finally were producing lettuce — through the method of growing the vegetable using mineral nutrient solutions in water, and without soil.

The year-round operation, utilizing a 30 by 128 foot greenhouse, produces about a 1,200 heads of lettuce per week. They supply restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area.

The lettuce produced are cleaner, fresher and last longer — but also are yielded weeks faster than the typical soil method of growing vegetables.

“We started out growing in greenhouses with soil, but soil is expensive,” Lorne said. “Soil continues to get more expensive. Water is just water.”

The hydroponic method also allows them to grow year round, despite the challenges of a Labrador winter.

“Goose Bay, where we live, is very limited in the supply of produce we can get during the winter months,” Janet said. “This was one of the goals we hoped to overcome by starting off with the greenhouses.”

With such a success with lettuce, the Pateys are hoping to expand their greenhouse operation and grow tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, and peppers.

The Patey’s believe they are the only hydroponic operation of this complexity in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.