The Windsor-Essex region is an important player in agriculture and food processing. A temperate climate, long growing season, technologically-advanced growing systems, an efficient cross-border logistics industry and proximity to consumer-rich U.S. markets are all combined to make Windsor-Essex among the leaders in agriculture and food processing. Agri-business is a $3 billion industry with almost 8,000 employees spread across more than 100 food and beverage processing companies and over 1,500 growers. The region is home to major national and world-wide brands.
We’re located in Canada’s “deep south” - at roughly the same latitude as Northern California. The region’s weather is among one of the longest growing seasons in Canada and the typical growing season is over 200 days of the year. We’re also surrounded by the Great Lakes fresh water system, which, combined with our favorable climate, makes for ideal growing conditions.
The Windsor-Essex region is located right on the border of the U.S., directly across from Detroit, Michigan. The region boasts a very significant cross-border logistics industry that facilitates access to U.S. and international markets. And we have integrated, temperature-controlled distribution and transportation facilities that allows for getting fresh products to market quickly. Those assets, combined with Canada’s duty-free access to the U.S., Mexico and Europe, make our region an excellent center for agriculture and food processing.
Research and Food Safety
The Harrow Research and Development Centre
, is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's national network of 20 research centres, is located in the Windsor-Essex region - in Harrow. The centre is one of the largest greenhouse research complex facilities in North America and manages two field sites - one on sandy soils and the other on clay-loam soil at the Honourable Eugene F. Whelan Experimental Farm.
The centres mission is to develop and transfer new technologies for the production and protection of greenhouse vegetables and ornamentals, and field crops, including soybeans, edible beans, corn, winter wheat and tomatoes. The centre leads research with scientists and employees with expertise in plant breeding, crop physiology and management, entomology, plant pathology, weed science, and soil science.
Windsor-Essex region has a “cutting edge” manufacturing sector and this translates into all other sectors by bolstering their technical abilities as well. The region has a history that is rich in innovation and the ability to make things. The region’s reputation for efficient operations that produce high quality goods has sustained the regional economy for 150 years. Today, leading-edge technology is used to gain competitive advantages across virtually every sector we operate in. In agribusiness, we use technology to optimize yield, Brix count and grow times. We’re using cutting-edge systems that lets plants “talk” to our farmers through automated sensors that monitor conditions and collect data, which enables real time decision making based on up-to-the-second information. Technology is also helping our food processors automate quality control, ensuring that every food product sent to market is fully inspected – not only by skilled workers, but by robotic vision systems. This optimizes quality, efficiency and food safety. Advanced technology has changed the industry and long gone are the days when growers and food processors relied upon nature to control their destiny.
Today fruits and vegetables destined for markets across the globe are often grown inside temperature-controlled greenhouses throughout the region. More than 2,000 acres of greenhouse operations make Windsor-Essex the largest vegetable greenhouse cluster in North America.
Major Food Processing Companies
A number of large national and international food processing companies have significant operations in Windsor-Essex - companies such as Diageo, Unico, Bonduelle, Highbury Canco, Hiram Walker and ADM. Many of them have called Windsor-Essex home for decades, some for over a century.
Greenhouse companies such as Mastronardi Produce, Mucci Farms and Nature Fresh Farms, among others, are major suppliers of fresh produce and packaged fresh food products to North America and Europe. The region also has a fast-growing viniculture and winery industry that is becoming an important part of our agribusiness sector.
Non-traditional Greenhouse Growers and Producers
Based out of Leamington, Ontario, Aphria Inc. is a vertically integrated Canadian medical marijuana company that is 1 of the 30+ Licensed Producers
(LP) legally allowed to cultivate and sell
cannabis under Health Canada's Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). Aphria Inc. currently has approximately 45,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space and grows approximately 2,700 kilos of cannabis annually.
By 2024, Health Canada projects
that the medical cannabis market in Canada will reach $1.3 billion and have 450,000 patients. The Canadian medical cannabis market's last reported patient count was 43,342.
Because it is primarily an export industry, a lower Canadian dollar actually helps our food processing companies. With the low Canadian dollar we can offer food and beverage products at very attractive prices to our export markets.
But beyond exchange rates, there are many other reasons why Windsor-Essex is a great place for agribusinesses - and other businesses, for that matter - to locate. We’ve always been a very business-friendly region. We have extremely attractive serviced land costs. Our tax rate for manufacturers is lower than most locations in the U.S, and leasing and labor costs are much lower than in other major North American centers. We have very affordable housing, a culturally-diverse community, a large workforce of both skilled and unskilled labor, low health care costs, and a very favorable lifestyle that makes our region a great place to work and live. In short, we’ve got all the ingredients for a thriving food processing sector.