Made-in-Canada hooder stretchwrapping system ensures perfect product protection for New Brunswick peat harvester
Getting your hands dirty naturally goes with the territory for anyone in the business of harvesting and packaging fertilizers, plant growing mixes and other such horticultural products. But its a fair trade-off for companies like the Seba Beach, Alta.-based Sun Gro Horticulture Canada Ltd., which has been really cleaning up in the North American markets over the last several years—impressively growing into the continent’ largest producer of horticultural-grade peat moss, along with blossoming into the biggest distributor of peat- and bark-based growing mixes and a leading supplier of water-soluble and controlled-release fertilizers for the consumer and commercial markets.
Harvesting peat moss from peat bogs across Canada, Sun Gro’s growing range of well-received, high-quality products—used primarily by professional greenhouses, nurseries, specialty crop growers, landscapers, and golf course operators—are today produced at over 20 production facilities located strategically throughout Canada and the U.S.
Employing over 1,000 people at its multiple locations, the company generated revenues of $225 million in 2010, having had processed just over 10 million bales of peat moss products for the nine months ending September 30, 2010, according to Rene Duguay, general manager of Sun Gro’s eastern Canada region situated in Lameque, New Brunswick.
“Our products are developed by professional horticulturists and produced under the industries highest standards company-wide,” Duguay told Canadian Packaging in a recent interview, attributing much of the company’s enviable marketplace position directly to the high quality of its products, as well as a well-executed series of strategic acquisitions that “helped Sun Gro become a vertically-integrated producer of value-added growing mixes with a very wide North American market.
Founded in 1929 in Vancouver under the Western Peat Company Ltd. corporate banner, the company gradually established its presence throughout British Columbia, before expanding eastward into central Canada.
After being acquired by Hines Horticulture, Inc. in 1993, which in turn was subsequently purchased by the Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners II, L.P. in 1995, the company commenced a strong marketing push to raise its industry profile by targeting n the higher-margin professional growers market, Duguay relates.
The strategic shift paid off handsomely, according to Duguay, with significant growth in the private-label market, which helped fuel a string of strategic acquisitions of Strong-Lite Products Corp. and Pigeon Hill Peat in New Brunswick; Normiska Peat in Ontario; Tourbiere Omer Belanger in Quebec; Sun Up Horticulture and Kellogg Rich Grow in California; and Florida Potting Soils in Florida and Georgia.
The acquisitions enabled Sun Gro to vastly expand its product portfolio, says Duguay, citing the company’s Sunshine, Sunshine Pro, Sunshine Redi-earth; Lakeland; Metro Mix; Nutricote; TechniCote; TechniGro; Black Gold; Nature’s, Sun-Coir, SunTrace, SunTrace Max and; Sunshine SunTower brands as some of its bestselling product lines.
Duguay explains that most of Sun-Gro’s products are soil-less mixtures of peat moss—with sphagnum peat moss being the high quality variety preferred by horticulturists—while other main ingredients comprising bark and coir, a coconut husk fiber.
Says Duguay: “Because peat moss is only grown in northern climes—it’s harvested as the decomposition of organic matter in bogs—Canada is one of the world’s largest such suppliers, accounting for 25 per cent of the world’s peat, which covers covering more than 270 million acres.