There are few things better than the delicious homegrown fruit Canadians experience during the dog days of summer. While the traditional Canadian growing season may be short, it certainly delivers, with awesome strawberries, juicy peaches, and world class cherries. But, we can’t say the same thing about winter – the cold winter temps, combined with short days and low light aren’t conducive to the same local produce in the winter months. Indoor farming is changing the landscape though, and while we haven’t figured out a way to move stone fruit production indoors – yet – we can successfully grow berries, and in particular, strawberries, in controlled climate environments.

Strawberries grown indoors taste better and are sweeter

In the winter months, strawberries are usually transported in from the United States or Mexico, and often ripen on the way, which means that they don’t taste as sweet as strawberries that ripen on the plant. Those berries arrive after weeks on a truck, and they don’t always taste like, well, strawberries. The sweetness or sugar content of strawberries is measured in brix, and indoor grown strawberries continually measure higher on the brix scale than their outdoor grown, Southern hemisphere counterparts.

Moving strawberry farms inside

These plants do particularly well indoors – in controlled climate environments, allowing farmers to grow fruits and vegetables that are typically associated with the summer months, to be grown locally, year round. Strawberries are a fragile fruit and require a lot of light, making them an ideal candidate for indoor growing with artificial lighting. Interested in learning more about the best LEDs for indoor-grown strawberries? Call us at +1 833 GLD LEAF for a quick chat.

Take it from Paul Maco of Ferme D’Hiver, (parent company of Winter Strawberry / Fraise D’Hiver, a provider of a complete industrial-scale indoor production solutions near Montreal, that grows, quite obviously, winter strawberries) about the benefits of growing strawberries indoors:

For years consumers have been asking for a juicy, tasty strawberry that tastes like summer…but in winter! Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) makes that collective dream come true. It also maximizes available growing areas and increases production capacity for the local farmers with whom we partner to deploy our Winter Farms. Technology and innovation really have the potential to feed people with fresh, local, natural and affordable food all year round! 

Fraise D’Hiver has successfully been growing strawberries indoors for 3 years, and has experienced incredible success. One often overlooked benefit of indoor growing, is certain crops can be grown without the use of chemical pesticides, as they avoid those outdoor, summer pests, making them a healthier option. The FraiseD’Hiver strawberry at Winter Farm is grown without chemical pesticides, and “the farm produces absolutely no harmful discharges for the environment, since irrigation water is recirculated.”  While not strictly classified as organic produce, because of artificial lighting, the benefits of producing locally without chemical pesticides are real – and a healthy option for you, your family, and the environment. 

Producing local, year round

Another big benefit of locally grown produce is the longer shelf life compared to produce brought in from Mexico or California, due to shortened transportation timelines, meaning you get your strawberries at peak freshness and nutritional value. The environmental impacts and carbon footprint are reduced, making this huge a win from both a health and environmental perspective. The next time you are at the grocery store shopping for produce, take a look at the packaging and buy local, you’ll be glad you did!

What’s next for locally grown, winter strawberries?

Strawberries are fast becoming one of the most popular Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA) crops, and investment is pouring in. Next winter, Canadians should expect to see increased freshness and higher quality when shopping for their winter strawberry selection.

If you’d like to learn more about adding strawberries as a winter crop to your indoor grow, reach out to us for a free consultation, or just to chat through your ideas.