Category Archives: General

Cover Produce & Agra Tech Have a Relationship Spanning Four Decades

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A multi-generation, family-run operation that grows some of the finest tomatoes in the area, Cover Produce in Tuolumne, CA recently acquired an Agra Tech greenhouse to increase their ability to grow tomatoes year-round. By working closely with Agra Tech sales engineer, Jim Bergantz and much of the company’s support team, in addition to Ag-Con, Inc., Peter Cover and his large family were able to erect a brand-new ATI greenhouse in a short time with outstanding results. This relationship has now come full circle, because believe it or not, back in the early 1980’s, Peter’s parents purchased an Agra Tech greenhouse that they still use.

On 30 acres of predominantly wooded land, Cover, 46, grows tomatoes for grocery stores and restaurants and delivers them weekly on a regular sales route. With the assistance of his wife and eight children (3 boys and 5 girls ranging in ages 2-23) Cover Produce grows tomatoes in the ground during the summer and in their new greenhouse starting in the fall and then harvesting throughout the winter and spring.

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New Agra Tech Solar Light 30 with Tomatoes

It keeps the Cover family busy–either planting or harvesting or delivering tomatoes to its clients, Cover said. “The tomatoes don’t stop growing and our customers need them year-round so going to a climate controlled environment during the winter is ideal for what we’re doing. It also helps that my family is very interested in this greenhouse project. I can see the passion in their eyes, especially with my boys.”

Cover’s parents got him into farming back when Peter was a youth, when his mother started growing decorative plants and creating “dish gardens” that quickly became popular. After doing it as a hobbyist, Peter’s parents decided to get a serious greenhouse more than 35 years ago, so they contacted Agra Tech and purchased one.

“My mom has a green thumb and her little greenhouse was too small,” Cover said. “It was a wood structure and they needed something larger, so they got a greenhouse from Agra Tech and it worked well. It’s still full of plants after all these years, which is a testament to how sturdy and resilient that these Agra Tech greenhouses truly are!”

Late last year, Cover and his family decided that the time was right to purchase another Agra Tech greenhouse, so they began the process. It wasn’t an easy task to get the proper permits and construct a 60 foot by 120 foot Solar Light Agra Tech greenhouse, but by tapping into ATI’s vast reservoir of knowledge and experience, it was covered, so to speak.

“Jim Bergantz was incredible,” Cover said. “From start to finish he was onboard and in tune with the project.  Since he has been in greenhouses from his youth as well, it was a real asset to have him covering for us” Cover said. “If we ran into issues, which were few, he was right there and willing to help us in any way he could.  We assembled the greenhouse ourselves. Ray Pound from AgCon set the 44 posts in concrete and the boys and I did the rest. I was amazed to see that Ray set those posts perfectly–he could not have been any more precise–they were dead-on and perfectly aligned. Everything was perfectly square, which was a big deal since we were building it ourselves. He set us up so that when we started our work, every bolt just fell into place. The instruction manual they sent with the massive bundles of parts was very thorough and gave very good instructions as to which part went where. It all made sense and was easy to follow. The entire support team at Agra Tech was terrific and was willing to do whatever we needed to make this project a complete success.”

The Covers burn wood in a furnace to heat their greenhouse–a method that allows them to have the structure at 65 degrees all night, even when it gets chilly in Tuolumne. “The furnace heats the water and then it is forced through duofin aluminum pipes,” Cover said. “The heat radiates from the pipes and into the foliage of the plants, heating the greenhouse very well.”

AgraTech Solar Light Cover Produce (4)Cover Produce is proud of its tomatoes–the only crop they grow in a controlled environment. By concentrating solely on tomatoes, the family has been able to produce some of the area’s finest and that’s why their customers covet them. “We grow grape tomatoes, and two colors of cherry tomatoes and mix them together for a basket of medley tomatoes. We also raise red round slicing tomatoes as well as orange cluster tomatoes.” he said. “I call the other mass-produced tomatoes on the market that come from Mexico and other places ‘pink things’. They have so little flavor and can only provide color to a salad. Since we are a locally operated business, all of our tomatoes can be picked ripe and most of them reach our customers within 2-3 days. Our tomatoes rarely sit for more than a week.”

What does the future hold for the Cover family at Cover Produce? “I am intently interested in helping my sons to take this business and watch it grow with them,” he said. “With this new Agra Tech greenhouse, we have doubled our winter time production and that is going to put us in a great position as we grow more tomatoes and expand our business as a result.”

Article by Edmund Attanasio

Delivery Truck

Delivery Truck

Putting up the gutters.

Putting up the gutters.

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Putting up the trusses

Agra Tech and CEAC Maintain a Healthy and Growing Relationship

Dr. Gene A. Giacomelli at the Greenhouse Tomatoes Cooling Studies at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Dr. Gene A. Giacomelli at the Greenhouse Tomatoes Cooling Studies at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) in Tucson supports education, research and extension/outreach as part of the school’s Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering and the School of Plant Sciences.  Both within their the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the CEAC is known as the country’s leading institution for greenhouse growing education, featuring the finest professors in every aspect of this burgeoning industry. By staying ahead of the technology, the CEAC also offers an innovation platform for plant physiology, sensor technology and applied computer technology.

About Dr. Gene Giacomelli

He teaches Controlled Environment Systems which is an introduction to the technical aspects of greenhouse design, environmental control, nutrient delivery systems, hydroponic crop production, intensive field production systems, and post-harvest handling and storage of crops.

Giacomelli’s interests include controlled environment plant productions systems [greenhouse and growth chamber] research, design, development and applications, with emphases on: crop production systems, nutrient delivery systems, environmental control, mechanization, and labor productivity.

We recently talked to Giacomelli to discuss his role at the CEAC and how Agra Tech, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of commercial greenhouses assists the program by providing education and ongoing sponsorship.

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Q:  Tell us what you do at CEAC?

A: We focus on crop production in order to help the industry to grow, but we also teach the science and the engineering involved, to know why we can make it work or why it doesn’t work. So that’s what we do – we teach undergrads; we do research to create new knowledge; we teach graduates that help us do that research and then we have outreach and extension to get to the growers by inviting them to attend our short courses.

Q: It seems as though the professionals in this industry are willing to help each other even if they are competitors?

A: Yes this is a different type of industry in that regard. Agriculture in general I think – particularly the greenhouse people – are willing to help each other in a lot of ways. There’s competition, of course, but it’s beneficial too as more and more people succeed and that’s been raising the bar for everybody. And I think organizations like ours recognize and respect it from companies like Agra Tech. And that’s why we invite them every April to our conference in Tucson.

Q: From what we’re hearing, there are actually more jobs than students out there in the commercial greenhouse growing industry right now?

A: Absolutely. And that’s why I see all of these other states now at least putting together the horticultural side so they can educate and train students to be the growers. But we’re still going to need the engineers and the technical people as well. We have the engineering design program, but now we want to create a technical, non-engineering degree. Some people just don’t like the math – let’s put it that way. But yet they’re technically directed and they like to work hands on. They could do a non-engineering technical degree.

Q: How has Agra Tech played a role in what you’re doing at the CEAC?

A: Agra Tech comes to our short course year in and year out and they exhibit, which helps us to finance the entire program. It’s beneficial for the students and growers because they can meet the greenhouse reps and find out everything they need to know before acquiring a greenhouse for their particular needs. I was introduced to the Pound family back when I was at Rutgers University in the 1990’s as I recall.  They’re prominent people in the industry and well-known. Jim Bergantz and everyone else at Agra Tech see the bigger picture when it comes to this industry. They know that in order for this industry to grow, it needs education and support. So Agra Tech has been very good to us by waving our flag and telling people about our program.  All of the folks at Agra Tech are always there to say a good word  if somebody asks about a greenhouse – what’s a good buy, what’s a reputable one–I tell them,  ‘You’ve got to determine what you need by talking to the greenhouse reps and this is a good company that can assist you.’

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Article by Edmund Attanasio

Dave Wilson Nursery Builds Large Greenhouse Manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc.

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To increase its capacity for growing rootstock, as well as extend the growing season, Dave Wilson Nursery Inc. is working with Agra Tech, Inc. to design and build a standalone 150,000 sq. ft. greenhouse facility with a wide range of cutting-edge features throughout. For the commercial side of Dave Wilson Nursery, this addition is part of a two-stage expansion plan, with another 75,000-sq. ft. addition anticipated to take place sometime next year.

Mike Farris, Greenhouse Manager at Dave Wilson Nursery Inc., has overseen this construction project and is confident in its successful completion as well as its tremendous benefit to DWN’s production process. The greenhouse expansion was designed and manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc. of Pittsburg, CA and assembled by Ag-Con Construction of San Jose, CA.

“This expansion will facilitate the increased production of almond trees on hybrid rootstock for our commercial market,” Farris said, “which is the driving force behind this recent expansion.”

The expansion not only provides for increased production but does so with great efficiency and labor saving,” Farris said. Phase one’s capacity is 2 million plant starts. Phase two equals that capacity or it will hold 257,000 finished stock in 100mm x 200mm Elle Pots ©.”

Dave Wilson Progress

Ag Con foreman working with the customer

Integrated into this greenhouse expansion are a wide range of additional features. According to Farris, these include Agra Tech’s line of mobile trays, under-bench heating, Cherry Creek’s traveling water booms and a secondary overhead heating system, all controlled with a Hortamax control system. The addition of insect screen will facilitate improved plant health and vigor.

Ray Pound is the owner of Ag-Con Construction, a company that has built literally hundreds of greenhouses over the years. Large greenhouse operations call upon Pound frequently to get their greenhouses built on deadline and without complications, because Ag-Con knows how to build even the most complex greenhouses.

Pound has worked on a series of small projects with Dave Wilson Nursery in the past and that’s why he is pleased to be involved in the company’s big project. “The people at Dave Wilson Nursery are great to work with, so when I first found out about this project, we were really excited,” Ray Pound said. “This greenhouse is state-of-the-art throughout and David Wilson Nursery is going to be doing some amazing things in this greenhouse with almond trees. It is going to play an important role within the company, so getting it up-and-running by December is huge.”

With a crew of 11 working day and night to reach the greenhouse’s deadline, Pound is fast tracking everything to make the December date. “I have an excellent crew and by working with Mike Farris, we are really stepping up on this job,” Ray Pound said. “This is a dream project, because it is innovative in many ways and Mike Farris is great to work with. I was involved in several aspects of the greenhouse’s design and offered advice during the planning stage. This is a step into the big-time with all of the companies that worked on this greenhouse, so we’re anxious to be able to see it in action. The design stages on this project started in July of 2015 and on December 1st, we will be up-and-running with this greenhouse and all of its features.”

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Ag Con Construction crew at work on the Shade Curtain

Dave Wilson Nursery grows trees for commercial orchards as well as for home garden centers nationwide, offering a complete line of deciduous fruit, nut and shade trees for the home garden trade. Established by Dave Wilson in 1938 on a tiny parcel of land that he rented near Modesto, California, Dave Wilson Nursery has established a great track record for being one of the largest growers of deciduous fruit, nut and shade trees in the entire country. By changing with the times and embracing the newest technology available, Dave Wilson Nursery has grown exponentially over the past 78 years. Tom Spellman, the company’s southwestern U.S sales manager, has an office in Upland, CA.

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View from headhouse into the Solar Light 42 greenhouses

With 11 years of experience managing greenhouses, Farris knows the ins and outs of designing and building growing structures of all types and that’s why he is happy to be working with a company like Agra Tech. “We have worked with Agra Tech and Ag-Con previously, so we’re very comfortable with both companies and know we’ll be getting some of the best service available,” Farris explained. “In fact, Agra Tech has built all of the greenhouses we have here currently, except for the original one that was built back in the 1940s. Working with the Pound family and Jim Bergantz our ATI rep, not to mention all of the amazing folks in their office–it is great to be working with some of the finest and smartest people in the industry today.”

Article by Edmund Attanasio

Solar Light 48 Headhouse

Solar Light 48 Headhouse

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Solar Light 42 nearly completed