523 Wilkinson Drive
Leamington, Ontario N8H IA6
AMCO Farms is a greenhouse facility based in Leamington, Ontario, and run by the Amicone family. Pat Amicone, the founder of Amicone Farms, started his small family business in 1963. Even back then, Pat saw the great potential of what could be accomplished inside a greenhouse. His dream became reality with the construction of AMCO’s first greenhouses in 1973. Today, AMCO has over 200 employees and 40 acres of greenhouses and offers a wide variety of services. They are known for their superiorly grown hydroponic produce, shipping a variety of fresh tomatoes, colored bell peppers, seedless cucumbers, and other fresh produce to the Midwest and North America every day of the year.
To meet increasing demand from their clients, AMCO revolutionized its business structure and expanded its facilities in 1985. During this period, four individual companies merged together into the AMCO Group of Companies® under the leadership of Pat’s son, Fausto Amicone. AMCO Group now efficiently specializes in all the different aspects of the greenhouse produce market.
Fausto tells more about his family’s business below.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
I enjoy the greenhouse environment, walking through the crops and watching the plants flourish as they produce vegetables. I love the dynamics of the greenhouse industry and the continuous developments that keep us viable.
What do you envision for the future of your business?
The future of the greenhouse industry will depend upon our ability to minimize our energy input costs. Fossil fuels have become very expensive in the last few years, which has placed a huge burden on our industry.
To reduce costs, AMCO recently installed a Biomass Combustion Plant to relieve its energy input costs somewhat, and allow the company to become more competitive in the marketplace. With this plant, AMCO will replace 85% of its dependency on fossil fuels. Bioenergy is regarded as “green energy” for many reasons. Assuming that biomass resources such as forests are managed properly, biomass fuels are infinitely renewable. They have already proven to be economically stable sources of energy over time. Bioenergy is neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. The burning of biomass fuels merely releases the CO2 that the plants absorbed over their lifespan. In contrast, the combustion of fossil fuels releases large quantities of long-stored CO2, which directly contributes to climate change. Using bioenergy displaces fossil fuels and helps slow the rate of climate change.
In addition to investigating alternative energy, we are continuously developing new cultivars that enhance the flavors of our products. Consumer trends show that taste is becoming a very important factor in people’s buying habits and, as such, our future focus will be on developing similar products with enhanced flavor.
What makes your farm special?
AMCO is a leader in the development of food safety. We have developed an intense Hygiene Protocol and a food safety program called “Eat Safe,” which provides for periodic testing to ensure safe produce and third-party auditing for retailers. You can learn more about our Eat Safe program online at www.eatsafe.ca.
AMCO receives government funding support through IRAP and SA & ED programs to investigate new varieties and experiment with new growing methods to increase quality and shelf life and eliminate any potential diseases and viruses that threaten the health of our vegetables. Through these programs we are able to consistently keep our research team effective in the development of new varieties and/or product categories without the need to pass on additional costs from research to our customers. New varieties slated for commercial production for this year include a new Baby Roma tomato labeled “Romantico.”
Are you an organic grower?
We are not a certified organic grower as yet, but we do currently have small R&D; sections for organic greenhouse production and are continuously improving our organic growing process. Work is currently ongoing to develop a liquid organic substrate for hydroponic vegetables under greenhouse conditions. This project is in its early stages of testing on tomato seedlings, and the resulting fruit will be analyzed after ripening, in collaboration with the University of Windsor.
Why is organic farming a priority for your business?
Consumers are demanding safe produce in greater and greater numbers. Organic produce ensures that there are no dangerous pesticide residues.