Phase one of the project included the construction of 16 hydroponic greenhouses, covering 10ha, a packing plant, and other supporting facilities in Jalapa.
According to the group, each of the greenhouses have specially designed, fully-automated butterfly window vents that help keep pests out, automated irrigation and fertilisation systems, water filters, and high-tech fogger systems that help provide an ideal growing environment, as well as internal drainage systems to help protect the surrounding rivers and water reservoirs and prevent greenhouse run-off.
"These special systems are in line with Del Monte’s worldwide sustainable management practices, and are just some of the many systems that Del Monte has put in place to ensure the long term viability of the natural resources used for the production of its products and protect the environment within which it operates," the group said.
Located 90 miles from Guatemala City, the greenhouses are equidistant to Port Santo Tomas on the Atlantic Ocean and Port Quetzal on the Pacific.
"The geographical location of the facilities is one of their many distinctive and advantageous features," said Dennis Christou, vice-president of marketing at Del Monte. "The proximity to two Guatemalan ports allows for easy and efficient access to all United States ports, helping to minimise our environmental footprint.
"The year-round tropical climate in this region also provides the ideal climate for greenhouse agriculture and allows us to use natural light versus the artificial lighting that some greenhouses located in northern regions require," he noted. "In addition, the moderate temperatures allow us to forgo heating during winter months, which helps save energy."
While Del Monte’s greenhouse products are available year-round, the core season will be October through June, helping to supply North America during the winter season.
"We are excited to be able to now offer Del Monte grown greenhouse vegetables," said Christou. "Greenhouse products are more consistent in quality and supply, produce a greater yield and are generally grown in more environmentally friendly conditions. The enclosed environment also helps mitigate food safety concerns.
"The expansion of our tomato programme is a natural fit and progression for Del Monte," he added. "Since the inception of the brand, premium quality tomatoes have often been associated with the Del Monte name and it is so much a part of our company that even our logo originates from the shape of a tomato."
This is the first step of a major expansion of Del Monte’s greenhouse program. The company has already begun construction of sister greenhouse facilities in Costa Rica that will have the capacity to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant, among other products. In the coming months Del Monte will also be expanding operations at its Guatemalan facilities and has 'many proprietary greenhouse varieties' in the pipeline.