armand belliveau hydroponic greenhouse

Armand Belliveau (right) and employees hold up some of the produce from Ferme Shediac Farm's greenhouse (Radio-Canada/Amélie Gosselin)

A retired Shediac businessman has turned his dreams of a backyard greenhouse into a hydroponic farming operation.

"I have been a vegetarian for 20-years and at one time there was no local products and I wanted to try to get some better food," said Armand Belliveau.

Belliveau could not get planning approval to build a greenhouse to feed just himself and his family, so he opted to go the commercial route. He set up a business on a plot of land he owned near his home.

It started as very much a work in progress. On occasion they were caught unprepared by Mother Nature.

"On April 21 we had a day that was 21 degrees, which is really not common, and in the greenhouse it came to 90 degrees," said David Cormier, who works for Belliveau's produce outfit, Ferme Shediac Farm.

"So the controlled environment designed to bring the temperature down was not completely in place. [It] created some problems."

Cormier had been a gardener most of his life but Belliveau was no fan of getting his hands "dirty" when they started out. Hydroponics, which skips the soil and grows plants directly in water with mineral nutrients, was a better fit. 

He bought into a franchise and relied on the company's provided materials to get started.

'There is a big market for fresh food in this market'

"Basically, everything is in place" said Cormier.

After those few initial hiccups they now have two bays in the greenhouse up and running. One is dedicated to three types of lettuce — Boston, romaine and oakleaf — the other is split between tomatoes and cucumbers. Each is about 22 feet wide and 128 feet long.

Cormier says they can produce nearly 1000 heads of lettuce a week as part of their year-round operation.

"With three types of variety you don't need a big market to go after," he said.

Both Cormier and Belliveau think that the baby boomers of the area are willing to pay a little more for local, fresh produce. Their inventory has been moving quickly.

The lettuce is in local health food stores now and cucumbers are available at the Shediac Co-Op.

with files from Shift New Brunswick