Nestled between The Queensway and the Gardiner Express is Canada’s largest and only wholesale fruit and vegetable distributor.
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“People from all over the world come to see how we operate. We’re distinct,” said Bruce Nicholas, Ontario Food Terminal general manager and secretary-treasurer. “We’re the only one with a wholesale farmers’ market (and) the only one with a parking deck to go over the top of our farmers’ market.”
Why it matters: Ontario Food Terminal moves 2.1 billion pounds of produce and horticultural products each year using innovative methods.
The overhead parking deck gives protection from the elements, allowing farmers to keep products dry regardless of weather. The terminal also has a covered pathway system from the market to the wholesaler building to provide buyers with the same protections while collecting stock.
It led the pack in initiating electronic gate access and camera installation for safety, and implemented a waste separation handling room for its 50 office tenants, 20 warehouses and 400 farmers market tenants, serving approximately 5,000 registered buyers.
The terminal offers wholesale and farmers market tenants access to 100,000 square feet of refrigerated space on a first-come, first-served basis for $13.20 per pallet per week, which includes free Wi-Fi and access to the new quality control room.
Tenant-specific quality control inspectors sample products and generate a report as shipments arrive metres away from the eight cold storage offload docks.
“If there is an issue with the load, they’ll go back to the shipper and say there’s 10 per cent decay or a problem, and they want to discount,” said administration manager Gianfranco Leo.
Cold storage operates 14.5 hours daily from Sunday to Friday and is closed Saturday, with off-hour services available if required.
“That’s 3,622 pallets we can hold at one time, and turnovers are quick because it’s a marketplace,” said Leo.
Despite the facility’s size and the amount of produce that moves daily through its doors, the terminal has less than one per cent waste by volume.
Leo said the state-of-the-art waste separation facility features six contractors where wood, cardboard, plastic corner boards, vegetable waste and mixed garbage are recycled or compacted.
The indoor operation includes ventilation with heating and cooling, a dome to safely evacuate mould during disposal of oranges, and sealed compactor bins for juice disposal at the transfer station.
“We have a food rescue program where our tenants donate produce that still has a couple of days shelf life left,” he said.
The food is brought into the cold storage and photos of the items are sent to various charities like Second Harvest, Salvation Army, Daily Bread and Mississauga Food Bank, any of which can choose to collect and distribute it.
“We rescued at least half a million pounds of produce last year,” Leo said. “We also have another program where we provide produce to farmers. (They) took 800,000 pounds last year for their hogs and cattle.”
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The programs help feed people and livestock, divert produce from the waste stream and save money for tenants.
The large capacity green bins are a pallet-sized design to integrate with the corridor system, and compactor hoppers flip the cart without spillage.
Additionally, the farmers market has an outdoor seasonal compactor, which has improved terminal cleanliness.
“We have an automated system here where they swipe a card to come in, so we keep track of activity, who’s bringing what, who brings the most garbage, and who doesn’t,” said Leo. “We’re proud of this facility.”