Field of dreams.
"There really is nobody in Ontario growing low bush blueberries," Lauzon says.
Within weeks he will be receiving 900,000 cloned Fundy and Brunswick plantlets from a mother plant in Prince Edward Island. A total of 2.7 million plantlets will be planted on 235 acres over the next three years. Then it will be a matter of harvesting in the fourth year and asking $1.25 to $2.50 per pound from buyers.
They are heavy producers with good fruit. The irrigated fields in Swastika, a few minutes from Kirkland Lake consist of sandy loam, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5.
"That lends itself perfectly to blueberries," says Lauzon.
Since the fields are relatively flat, mechanical harvesting will be used to extract the fruit. The machine has extended arms that delicately shake the bushes. The blueberries fall onto a conveyor and into the storage bin where they will be kept in coolers.
"The berries have be dropped to 0.5 degrees Celsius right after they are picked to stop the ripening process."
This allows Lauzon more time to complete the packaging. Lauzon expects to harvest 470,000 pounds after the fourth year.
"That is a lot of blueberries."
The fruit will go to southern Ontario to various food stores, Lauzon expects. He is also keen on supplying berries to pharmaceutical companies, since growers have found a way to extract the anti-oxidants or the flavonoids from the fruit.
The benevolent blueberry
Research currently being conducted at the University of Prince Edward Island suggests blueberries have the potential to save or lengthen lives while boosting the local economy. The small berry contains two to three times more antioxidants than grapes. Research into the fruit's ability to reduce stroke-induced damage caused by inflammation may eventually lead to patients taking a glass of blueberry juice or a tablet to ward off atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and type 2 diabetes.
There is spin-off potential. Lauzon is already interested in selling jams and jellies and even erecting a mini-winery on the remaining 9,000 square feet of the nursery property.
An estimated 36 jobs will be created: three full-time, 18 part-time and 15 hired as seasonal workers over the summer.
Lauzon has always had a green thumb. Several years back he and some colleagues bought a failed nursery operation, 25 kilometres north of Kirkland Lake. They used North Sun Gardens to produce hydroponic tomatoes.
"We were getting waste heat from Trans Canada Pipeline (to warm the plants)."
Lauzon intends to grow both blueberries and seedlings from the nursery operation.
By KELLY LOUISEIZE
Northern Ontario Business
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|Title Annotation:||SPECIAL REPORT: FORESTRY|
|Publication:||Northern Ontario Business|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2005|
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