La Frissonnante is pioneering winter strawberry cultivation in Quebec

This week, we’re excited to tell you the story of La Frissonnante, a pioneer in local winter strawberry cultivation. Despite the cold, their strawberries grow close to home, in greenhouses similar to ours. We visited this five-year-old company at their new and improved location that spans some 28,000 square meters of strawberryland in Danville. Joël Lalancette, one of the partners, was happy to show us around.

Strawberry plants like the cold.

During our visit, Joël explained that contrary to what most think, our climate is actually ideal for growing strawberries in winter. These delicious berries like the cold and surprisingly it's the cooler nights (temperatures of about 8℃) that are great for growing strawberries. To keep warm in winter, their greenhouses are heated and additional lighting is used to help with shorter days and less sunlight. These conditions, explains Joël, help grow some of the sweetest fruit even in winter.

To give you a better idea, Joël explained how they grow their strawberries: First, the seedlings are planted in August. A few weeks later, the team "combs the plants", which means separating the fruits and the leaves in order to help the fruit grow. Later on, bumblebees are introduced to pollinate the flowers. And about eight weeks after that, the first delicious strawberries are carefully harvested by hand. Harvesting and taking care of the plants goes on until May, which is when the plants reach the end of their maturity and will have to be replaced by new plantings the following August. As for the irrigation system, humidity, temperature, and light, everything is controlled automatically, much like in our greenhouses. But unlike us, their roofs always stay a little open, which lets in crisp fresh air and decreases humidity.

Bumblebees pollinate the strawberry flowers and ensure nice and even shaped fruit.

To ease the picking process and protect the fruit, planters are suspended. No synthetic pesticides or fungicides are used. They've chosen to use only natural products, like baking soda, to fight pests and this has proven to give some of the best fruit out there, explains Joël.

La Frissonnante is the largest winter strawberry grower in the region.

The story behind La Frissonnante is actually quite simple. It comes from passion, hard work, determination, and a love for strawberries! Joël explained that the only reason he succeeded, compared to others before him, was because of a promise he had made to himself: to succeed no matter what. Growing strawberries in winter can be quite challenging, and Joël and his partner, Simon Parent, did their fair share of research before settling on the perfect technique. Considering that growing winter strawberries isn't a common practice in Quebec, these two driven entrepreneurs had no one to turn to for advice or expertise. Although growing greenhouse strawberries was not a groundbreaking innovation in Europe, Quebec could pride itself on only a handful of people who have succeeded commercially, but on a small scale, and La Frissonnante is now the biggest player. 

The key to their success was to surround themselves with the best people, “people that will make you do great things,” he says. Joël and Simon complemented each other quite well in this venture. Joël had some experience with greenhouses, as he and his wife had taken over his step-parents’ annual flower company over 10 years ago. Simon, on the other hand, is the one with the green thumb. We know him well here at Lufa Farms because he helped us with our own little strawberry trial a few years ago. After much trial and error and sleepless nights, they got to where they wanted to be and you can taste the results. As with all great things, more research to constantly better themselves never stopped. Joël shared that they're testing varieties all the time, and the team discovered a new strawberry type that actually tastes like an orange!

All in the name...

When we asked Joël about how they chose the name, he replied that La Frissonante is a spin-off of a common French word “frisson,” which means to shiver. So, in short, they took the name from the fact that their are strawberries grown in our cold climate.

And it’s true, we can confirm it! These cute delicious berries are as delicious as summer strawberries, if not better...