greenshaus, inc. (aka the Thursday Lettuce Place) - theHumm April 2020

greenshaus, inc. (aka the Thursday Lettuce Place) - theHumm April 2020

By David Hinks

“Not bad for a guy that knows nothing about growing.”

I am standing in the midst of hundreds of gorgeous heads of buttercrunch and romaine lettuce chatting with a very modest Rob Lyle. Rob is the owner of a modern looking high-tech greenhouse on the north side of March Road east of Almonte, just a stone’s throw from the border with Ottawa.

Rob is a relative newcomer to the world of horticulture, having worked in the banking system as an investment manager for 27 years. He lost interest in that career, decided that voluntary retirement was not a goal for him, and so launched himself down a new path.His new career was shaped in part by a family-owned acreage of land where the greenhouse stands. The 15-acre piece of land is zoned for a number of rural agricultural uses including garden centre, abattoir and greenhouses. He notes, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, that he had no interest in opening another garden centre as there are already too many great ones in the area and that he couldn’t really become passionate about an abattoir, so that left greenhouses.

But his choice of a second career is really about much more than finding something to do with a piece of land he happened to own. Rob is very concerned about food security and strongly believes that we need to do much more. He notes that the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates why local food production is critical to our long-term survival. He sees it as a chicken and egg situation: for change to happen, consumers have to change their buying habits and producers have to embrace new technology. 

Results of his initial research were discouraging, as greenhouses in climates like ours are huge energy users with a very high carbon footprint. This led him to look further, and fortuitously he stumbled across a book called the The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse. He saw an opportunity to try something entirely different than anything else he had seen in his greenhouse research.

greenshaus inc. was founded in 2018 for the purpose of promoting innovative sustainable agricultural practices through the use of technically innovative, low carbon footprint, passive solar commercial greenhouses. He chose greenhouses designed and supplied by Ceres Greenhouse Solutions.

The name greenshaus is a nod to the German engineering of the structure as well as to Bauhaus principles where utility comes first. The shape and materials used to construct the greenhouse are simple and functional. The basic building is steel frame construction clad in insulated steel panels on the east, west, and north walls. Insulated steel panels are also used on the north roof, combined with triple glaze polycarbonate panels on the south roof and wall. The shape and orientation of the greenhouse maximizes the collection of light and heat to allow year-round use in cold climates. It is also robust enough to deal with snow loads and arctic winds.

The manufacturer of the greenhouse, Ceres Greenhouse Solutions, believes that they have found a solution for producing greenhouse crops in a climate such as ours that is economically viable. They criticize traditional greenhouses as having excess glazing materials that allow heat to escape faster, making a greenhouse inefficient and expensive to heat if you live in a colder climate.

Ceres has created a design that harvests the sun’s energy and retains it with insulated north, west and east solid end walls. The east-west orientation allows for sunlight to enter the greenhouse through the south-facing roof and reflect back onto the plants after bouncing off the north wall. They find light levels up to 100% greater inside their greenhouse than outside in the winter. The insulated walls work to retain thermal energy inside, lowering heating costs. The ground-to-air heat transfer system provides year-round climate control by utilizing the volume of soil underground as thermal mass to help regulate internal temperatures. The need for supplemental heating is still being assessed.

Construction of the 2,000-square-foot Almonte greenhouse finished in August of last year and Rob is currently producing 500-700 heads of lettuce a week. Depending on the crop he feels could boost that to 1512 per week all year round. He has also been experimenting with arugula, basil and assorted mustard greens. The lettuce that he grows arrives on the shelves of local grocery stores, or is plated at a local restaurant, the same day it’s picked.

It is a small operation and Rob is very much hands-on. He is assisted by a retired educator and her husband as well as a part-time salesperson.

Local food banks have been beneficiaries of early production. Rob is currently producing more than he is selling. Production has been in prototype mode so marketing has been minimal, but this is in transition — marketing activity is now happening in earnest as the new salesperson has come on board.

Production is hydroponic using nutrient film technology designed by AmHydro in California, and biocontrol methods such as ladybugs are used to control aphids. Rob observes that the only real production issues so far are due to their lack of experience as growers. He opines that: “the plants seem to know what to do — we just have to learn more about helping them be the best they can be — just like being a parent”.

As of the time of writing the greenhouse is open to customers on Thursdays. Rob advises that he will restrict access beginning in April to avoid pests that can be carried in on clothing during the summer months. He suggests that we stay tuned to his Facebook page as to how he will continue to serve the local community.

What does the future hold? Rob and his team are still learning to work with the present model in what is really a prototype. The first seeds were just planted on August 26 and they have not been through a full year’s growing season. When he feels comfortable with the prototype, he would like to build more of the greenhouses all across Canada.

Rob believes, from his experience to date, that the model is economically viable. The greenhouse operates as expected to this point. He believes that the key is to partner with others who think that locally grown food produced in a sustainable way will change the way we distribute produce, and help to ensure food security for all of us.


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The previous day I had been naively trying to convince my staff and colleagues that with increased sanitation measures and enforced social distancing, libraries could remain open to serve our communities.

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So Canada has been on my mind for a while now, the excitement building about replacing my permanent residence card with a passport one d......


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greenshaus, inc. (aka the Thursday Lettuce Place) - theHumm April 2020

By David Hinks

“Not bad for a guy that knows nothing about growing.”

I am standing in the midst of hundreds of gorgeous heads of buttercrunch and romaine lettuce chatting with a very modest Rob Lyle. Rob is the owner of a modern looking high-tech greenhouse on the north side of March Road east of Almonte, just a stone’s throw from the border with Ottawa.

Rob is a relative newcomer to the world of horticulture, having worked in the banking system as an investment manager for 27 years. He lost interest in tha......


Mandatory Mindfulness! - theHumm April 2020

By Helen Antebi

To quell COVID-19 and do our part to support health care workers, not to mention our families, friends and our communities, there is one skill we must acquire if we have not already.

The skill or art (depending on your approach), of mindfulness has been “trending” now for some time. Maybe there was a reason. Virtually overnight we have had to become acutely aware of our environments, the contact — or rather the distance — we have from others, the way ......


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Over twenty years ago theHumm appeared on the scene to promote the arts in the Ottawa Valley. April 2020 is our first non-appearance on your newsstands and at your local businesses and libraries since then. We, like the artists and arts-related businesses and events we publicize, are struggling to survive in the short term and to figure out how to revive and thrive in the future.

These are extremely challenging times. Humans dislike uncertainty and right now there are more than 7.7 billion pe......


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