Category Archives: Accessories

Agra Tech and Phoenix IRC Work Together to Create Community Farm

North Slope greenhouse

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, to reclaim control of their future and to strengthen their communities. Recently, Agra Tech, a leading manufacturer of commercial greenhouses, played an integral role in helping IRC in Phoenix, AZ to establish a small greenhouse in conjunction with their New Roots Program.

The New Roots Program is designed to help refugee farming families achieve food security, self-sufficiency and economic empowerment through their agricultural businesses. To achieve these, the IRC provides the following services to help new Arizonan farmers/ranchers: Agricultural education and business training; Agricultural business development; and Community agricultural partnerships.

koffi_newrootsWith three community gardens, aquaponics, and more than 100 participants gardening, the IRC in Phoenix provides training for new producers at multiple farmers markets around town and currently has program participants selling at four different farmers’ markets, three popup stands, and multiple retail locations. By also providing a John Deere tractor, implements, hand tools, processing supplies, and marketing supplies, the farmers involved are set up for success. Partners for the program include Rotary Club, Vitalyst Health Foundation, City of Phoenix, Redemption Church, Hickman’s Eggs, United Dairymen of Arizona.

By playing an active role in affecting city policy surrounding community gardens and farmers’ markets, the New Roots Program has changed the way people in low income areas attain food in Phoenix. Tristan Dunton, 25, is the Community Garden and Hydroponics Coordination and part of the New Roots Farm Program. We sat down with Dunton recently to discuss his most recent project and how Agra Tech, Inc. in Pittsburg, CA helped to make it all happen.

Q: Tell us about the genesis of your project for IRC Phoenix.
A: The project started in 2014 with the support of the Steele Foundation, and in the process we were involved in changing policy. Back in 2012, the city in conjunction with some people at IRC Phoenix developed the Community Garden Policy that allows us to build anything under 200square feet without electricity hookups and without a permit. Obviously, anything larger or, requiring an electrical hookup, requires a permit. Before we began this project, we had to get the language of the policy clarified, because without it we were going to have difficulty getting our greenhouse going–which we did.

Q: Tell us the genesis of your current project and how it came to fruition?
A: Right after getting hired by the IRC Phoenix, we signed a 10-year lease at a one-acre lot on 1616 Camelback Road. According to the City of Phoenix, any structure more than 200 square feet requires a permit. So, we needed to navigate through the process and make this happen without getting seriously delayed. We were moving a little faster than the City, so that’s where we encountered some problems. Long story short, we got our permit in January of this year, so I started working with local engineers to make it happen. It was pretty amazing. We started construction earlier this year and we just finished about a month ago.

Q: You ran into some obstacles along the way. Can you describe them?
A: Yes, it was definitely a learning process and I had to be a quick study on city politics as a result. First, I didn’t know how to formalize the language to represent the project appropriately. I had to define what I was building, which is a community garden greenhouse. When I called it a “teaching greenhouse” I think the city started looking at us as a school, which we are not. So, there was a period of time there where it looked daunting. But, with the help of a civil engineer, a local architect and a contractor–we eventually got it done.

Q: How is your community garden greenhouse doing currently?
A: It’s been great! The Agra Tech greenhouse looks beautiful and we already have so many people involved in the project. People in this area get limited access to fresh food and this project is going to change that. We’re receiving a ton of support from the community and people are volunteering right and left.

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Q: What are you growing?
A: Tomatoes, peppers and lettuce will be our main cash crops, but we will also be growing things like celery, turnip greens, Swiss chard and other items like that. The real important thing about our system is that we will be able to grow food year-round. We also plan to eventually raise tilapia here as well. The grant that we received for this project was to build a greenhouse and by the third year of funding we have to be 100% sustainable. We’re technically on our second year, so we have much to do.

Q: What was Agra Tech’s role in helping you with this project?
A: They were terrific. I guess I pretty much dealt with everyone there at Agra Tech at some point. Everyone was super friendly and really helpful. Jim Bergantz was a great proprietor on this project and he got back to us promptly every time. Anita Pound and James Roberts, their technical guy, was exceptional. They have so much knowledge and they’ve been doing this for so long that that working with them was a no-brainer.

Q: What do you think the future of 1616 Camelback Road will be like?
A: If we can grow food to feed the people of Phoenix and on top of that, sell much of it to make enough money for us to be sustainable, that will be very satisfying, to say the least. Now that we have a great greenhouse and are finally here growing food, I think we’ll achieve some impressive things here rather quickly.

Aquaponics tank
Aquaponics tank

Ed Attanasio Written by Edmund Attanasio

Micro Paradox Acquires Greenhouse System Designed and Installed by ATI

Randhawa Ventures getting started

Always on the cutting-edge of the commercial greenhouse industry, Agra Tech of Pittsburg, CA and Micro Paradox of Pleasant Grove, CA worked in close conjunction to create a commercial greenhouse system that is unique and unprecedented.

Micro Paradox provides high-quality clonal rootstock to orchard owners and nursery growers, consisting of clonal rootstocks for walnuts, cherries, pistachios and almonds. In addition to providing rootstock, the company can also do custom projects by providing customers with specific types of clonal rootstalks.

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Dr. Parm Randhawa

With over 20 years of experience in the seed health industry through CSP Labs, Micro Paradox was founded by Dr. Parm Randhawa in 2010 to provide high superior rootstock to growers worldwide. In addition, he is also the founder and owner of California Seed and Plant Lab, Inc. (CSP Labs), a company that performs seed health testing for the vegetable seed industry. The company was incorporated in 1998 and expanded its services to include seed germination, seed purity, disease diagnosis, resistance screening, hybrid purity, variety fingerprinting and Non-GMO testing.

CSP Labs is located on-site in a separate facility from Micro Paradox but located on the same property. “This close proximity enables us to conduct high quality testing of our products,” Randhawa said. “It’s convenient and useful, because it saves us time and allows us to work without interruption.”

A clonal rootstock is a vegetatively propagated (cloned) rootstock. Rather than using germinated seedling rootstock, nursery owners and growers can carefully select a clonal rootstock of their choice. This clonal rootstock, in turn, can be “budded” to a variety of the grower’s choice, according to www.microparadox.com.

Clonal rootstocks from Micro Paradox are superior over seedling rootstocks, because the latter suffer from genetic variability in that one seedling is different from the other seedling and their perforwalnutProductmance is unreliable. An orchard produced from seedlings may not be productive as some seedlings may lead to inferior trees, Randhawa explained.

“Clonal plants from high-quality trees are genetically alike and therefore perform similar to such characters as vigor, uniformity, budding compatibility, disease resistance and yield,” rootstockPicRandhawa said. “Clones are generally well studied and their characteristics documented by multi-year research before their release to the growers. For example, our walnut clone VX 211 is resistant to nematodes and this resistance lasts for the life time of the tree planted in soils containing nematodes.”

Micro Paradox is well-known for producing some of the best clonal rootstocks in the world. “Several companies can clone walnuts but a very few are good at it,” Parm said. “We are good at it and our reputation lies in “trees with good roots”. Our trees have roots that are at 45 degree from stem, multiple and air pruned to provide an edge when planted in a nursery row or in the orchard.”

“Our process is simple to produce high quality trees,” Randhawa said. “By establishing a contamination-free clone in tissue culture in the lab and increasing cloning in the lab to generate large number of very healthy cuttings, we then root them in the laboratory to a well-rooted plug. Once we’ve established the plug to a well-rooted plant in the greenhouse, we let it grow to a specific size. Then, it’s ready for sale.”

Randhawa was already familiar with Agra Tech, because they had acquired several commercial greenhouses from the company for CSP Labs, but this project for Micro Paradox was a completely different project with different specs and a lot of design required. “This was a truly groundbreaking project and we knew that a lot of the work would have to be custom,” Randhawa said. “By working closely with all of the people at Agra Tech, including John Pound, Ray Pound and Anita Pound and our sales rep, Jim Bergantz, we were able to get this greenhouse and all of its systems up and running by February of this year.”

2015-08 Randhawa 21By designing and building an Agra Tech  Sawtooth framework greenhouse featuring seven separate rooms for different stages of growing, it includes 7 energy curtain systems; connecting doors to each chamber; heating and cooling systems. It also includes a mobile tray system with six transfer carts and a complete railing system to move the trays throughout the entire greenhouse; a Biotherm under bench heating system: a True Leaf Fog system in each of the seven rooms and seven separate center water drip water brooms. It’s a huge project, but after it was completely designed, it took less than six months to make it 100% operable.

Everyone at Micro Paradox is thrilled by the results of their new system and relieved that it went so well. “The customer service provided by Agra Tech has always been exceptional and on this project they really did a spectacular job,” Parm said. “They did their research and came up with solutions that were designed specifically for us. We asked them a ton of questions and they answered all of them promptly and accurately.

“The greenhouse was built by Ag-Con and Ray Pound made it a seamless process, he said. “Every time we needed something–they were right there. It took about six months to get everything up-and-running and today we’re happy to say that our greenhouse is half full already. When we reach our goals, it will be more like three quarters full, which will be full capacity, because, of course, we will always have root stalks being shipped out to our customers.”

Randhawa AgCon Construction

Ag-con Construction

Ed

by Ed Attanasio

 

 

Hayes Wholesale Nurseries in New Zealand Uses Agra Tech’s Agra Benches

bench 003With customers worldwide, Agra Tech in Pittsburg, CA has greenhouses and ancillary products in countries all over the world and in this case, New Zealand is the setting for this story. Hayes Wholesale Nurseries is the New Zealand’s largest wholesale growers and suppliers of Pac geraniums, fuchsias and Pac Pelargoniums and sells to local garden centers as well as national chains throughout the country.

Based in Makarewa, a small community north of Invercargill (the southernmost city in the South Island of New Zealand), Hayes Wholesale Nurseries is owned and operated by Barry Hayes. He has the industry in his blood, because he learned how to be a nurseryman first hand in his parents’ garden center starting as a teenager back in the 1980s. He is now a veteran of the greenhouse growing industry with 30 years under his belt, and he wouldn’t change the life for anything else, he explained.

“Helping things to grow and creating a quality product is satisfying,” Hayes said. “We are specialist producers and the biggest growers of geraniums and fuchsias in New Zealand. All of the flowers we produce here are the best in New Zealand and people know that, so they look for our products in their garden centers and retail locations.”

Growing 300,000 flowers annually is a huge operation and that’s why Hayes needs three 1,000 square meter greenhouses (although they do call them “glasshouses” in New Zealand) and three separate propagating houses. The nursery grows flowers year round, but 80% of them are sold during their peak season, which runs from August through January, Hayes explained, with the busiest months being August and September.

The nursery employs five full-time people and comes with a complete menagerie of animals as well. “We have two exotic cats here, my Bichon-Maltese-cross dog, Poodles, and right now I am also taking care of a friend’s English bulldog. They’re our very own visitor welcoming committee.”

All of the plants grown at Hayes Wholesale Nursery are produced from cuttings. To meet the demand, they import cuttings from Germany every year. Once they arrive, the imported cuttings are kept in the nursery’s quarantine facility for three to four months until Ministry of Primary Industries’ inspectors give them the thumbs up. At that point, the cuttings are re-potted until they become well-established and then they’re shipped out to customers.

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Agra Tech Ebb and FLow Bench

Back in 2007, Hayes started purchasing rolling benches from Agra Tech, as part of their Agra Bench line of Mobil Trays, Rolling Benches, Stationary Benches, Ebb & Flow Benches, Caster Benches and T-Rail Benches. The nursery was interested in Agra Tech’s benches for their convenience and saw instantly that they could help their production.

“We use their Rolling Benches, because they make our lives here so much easier,” Hayes said. “By using these benches, we can grow more plants per square meter. Also, these types of plants require ongoing maintenance, which means we need a way to easily access each plant on a regular basis. The Rolling Benches enable our workers to do their jobs without spending a lot of time moving plants around.”

Hayes also uses Agra Tech’s Ebb & Flow Benches for several reasons. “We flood the trays with water and fertilizer and that way we’re able to reclaim all of it,” he said. “It cuts down on the cost of water and fertilizer, because the excess drains off and we re-use them. So, by using these benches, we’re able to be a greener operation while saving a substantial amount of time, water and money.”

Over the years of working with Agra Tech, Hayes has developed a solid relationship with the company. “Eloise and John Pound, the owners of Agra Tech have been here at least two times, looking at our operation and helping us to find good solutions. The Pound family has a ton of experience in this industry and their knowledge is invaluable to anyone growing crops in a glasshouse. We’ve received three large shipments of Agra Tech’s Benches and as we continue to grow, I am sure we will likely need more.”

Written by Ed Attanasio

Visit with Hayes Ebb & Flow bench

John Pound Visits Hayes Wholesale Nursery in New Zealand