Category Archives: Insect Exclusion

The Burchell Nursery Takes on Enormous Project with the Help of Agra Tech

By embarking on an ambitious three-phase project consisting of a screen house, a head house and a greenhouse for insect exclusion and a standalone propagation house in conjunction with Agra Tech, Inc., the Burchell Nursery is poised to start a new chapter in almond and citrus tree production.

The story of growth at Burchell Nursery is astounding and takes place in both Fowler and Oakdale, CA.  Since its inception in 1942, the operation has grown from 10,000 trees annually to over 3 million; 1.5 acres to more than 1,000; and from 5,000 square feet of greenhouse space to more than 130,000. This third-generation company is literally growing in front of our eyes and now their current project is taking them to a whole new level.

It all began in 1942 with “one man, a small patch of land and a very big belief”, according to the nursery’s website.  The man was Irvin Burchell, who started with an acre and a half acre of good Central Valley land on the outskirts of Modesto, CA.  With a B.S. from UC Berkeley in Pomology (the science and culture of fruits) Burchell began growing peach trees.  Today, Burchell Nursery grows more than 300 varieties of almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum, prune, and walnut trees.  The nursery has also patented more than 80 of these varieties over the past 75 years and also grows pomegranate, citrus and olive trees, plus a few ornamental varieties as well.

Burchell Peaches. Yum!

Beginning in the 1960s, Burchell Nursery worked to eliminate viruses from commercial tree varieties and establish clean sources of bud wood.  Their ongoing sampling process to ensure virus-free trees became the model that is now used by the State of California and their certified and  virus-free selections are now known as Healthy Start Trees.™

In 1970, Irvin’s son Bill Burchell took over the nursery’s reins and oversaw explosive growth, including the addition of 700 acres in Oakdale, CA; opening its Fowler branch in 1983; and its first greenhouse in 2000.

In 2004, Bill handed the business over to his son, Tom Burchell.  While some experts estimate only ten percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms survive to the third generation of family ownership, Tom has seized the opportunity and helped the nursery to grow even more.  His stewardship has also advanced the firm’s breeding program, which currently holds more than 44 patented varieties to its credit and more coming each year.

Greenhouse Manager Jeremy Bahne, 39, has been working at Burchell since 2006 and has 17 years of total experience in the industry.  He has been leading the team as they coordinate a large, four-phase greenhouse project that includes a head house, a screen house, a greenhouse, and an additional standalone propagation greenhouse, all provided by Agra Tech of Pittsburg, CA, and built by Ag-Con of San Jose, CA.

Bahne explained each component within the project: “One of these structures is our propagation facility and the other, our citrus complex, was designed primarily to achieve Asian Citrus Psyllid exclusion,” he said.  “This was built in three phases.  When we started the project, we were anticipating the coming of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, so we started with a one-acre screen house to keep these pests out while complying with CDFA and USDA regulations.  After the one acre of screen we added the headhouse and 1/2 acre of greenhouse, and we will eventually be adding another 1/2 acre of greenhouse in the future.”

Ray Pound of Ag-Con discusses construction with the greenhouse manager in one of the screen houses.

“The screen house is one of Agra Tech’s Insulator series and is 312 ft. long 140 ft. wide,” Bahne explained. “We will be using it as a ‘hardening off’ facility to toughen up the young citrus plants before they enter the real world.  It’s a good way to reduce the humidity while protecting the plants from insects and we can also use it for frost protection during part of the year.  The temperatures in the screen house are similar to those outside, but we have more control there and can keep the pests out.”

The Burchell Nursery grows 30-inch tall citrus trees, mostly mandarin oranges, lemons and grapefruits. The other commodities they grow have different height standards, but commercial citrus growers prefer them at that size and the nursery has become very good at accommodating them, Bahne said.

Phase 2 of the citrus project is a head house where Bahne’s crew can work on citrus plants without exposing them to any insects and acting as the main conduit between Burchell’s greenhouse growing area that is a little more sophisticated and with more bells and whistles.  “We will be able to use this head house to move plants from our greenhouse into our screen house to harden them without worrying about exposure to the Asian Citrus Psyllid,” Bahne said.

The second project is a propagation house, which is a 1/2 acre structure where Burchell will propagate things like rootstocks and other products that they sell such as vegetative cuttings and tissue culture of rootstocks that are used for almond and peach production and other fruit and nut trees for retail garden centers.

Bahne is delighted to be working with Agra Tech on this enormous project because he values the company’s knowledge, experience and expertise in every facet of greenhouse construction and design, he said.  “Jim Bergantz, our Agra Tech rep, played a huge role with this project and he couldn’t have been more agreeable.  One of the best things about hiring Agra Tech is that you also get Ag-Con, which is great.  They have done all of the construction for each phase and it has been amazing.  Ray Pound and the job foreman, Jaime, are on top of everything and their problem-solving skills have been very helpful.”

A drive-through breezeway from screen house to the Solar Light headhouse area without allowing insects in.

Bahne talked to three different companies before signing with Agra Tech, he said.  “They came back with a plan that was flexible and they we’re really willing to work with us at a reasonable price.  We met with them and they helped us adjust the design.  What they came up with was very similar to our original design, but they made it much more practical.  They thought about things that we didn’t think of and that was a big deal, to say the least!”

Written by Ed Attanasio
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Large Companies Tap into Agra Tech’s Knowledge and Cutting-Edge Products

Woodland R & D Facility

Agra Tech, manufacturer of commercial greenhouses and located in Pittsburg, CA, works with small growers all the way to the largest agricultural providers in the world because they value Agra Tech for its extensive experience, innovative spirit and extensive knowledge.

Commercial R & D Greenhouse - HVAC distribution corridor

Commercial R & D Greenhouse – HVAC distribution corridor

Adam Pound is an Account Manager at Agra Tech and he works with some of these mega-sized companies, so he is aware of what they need and what they expect from any commercial greenhouse company.

Recently, Agra Tech signed a three-year vendor agreement with one of the aforementioned mega-sized R&D customers, a global company with a facility in Woodland, CA, where they breed and grow seeds for vegetables to be sold worldwide. Featuring nine acres containing 60-plus greenhouses, this company is able to simulate all of the climates where they market their seeds.

Because Agra Tech is a highly-respected commercial greenhouse provider, this billion dollar company signed a deal with Agra Tech, but it did not happen overnight. “Once they saw what we could bring to the table, they decided to work with us,” Adam Pound explained. “We started working with them 3 years ago. Initially they were dealing with 23 vendors world-wide and now it is down to 2. After sitting down with them and outlining all of their needs and challenges, we were able to reach an agreement that will take them into their next phase. By integrating some of our patented innovations into their greenhouses, we’ve been able to help them in areas such as employee safety and insect exclusion, among others.”

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Exterior Fall Protection Scaffold

The safety innovation that Agra Tech has provided for this large corporation is called the Fall Protection Scaffold System that provides an added level of safety for workers operating both inside and outside the greenhouse. Exceeding OSHA standards, these systems include special engineering of the greenhouse to support the weight and inertia of workers should they fall. By using this scaffolding system, workers will not hit the ground in the event of a fall and the greenhouse will retain its structural integrity.

Interior Trolley Fall Protection

Interior Trolley Fall Protection

There are two different types of scaffolding available by Agra Tech: One for the exterior to maintain the coverings and another for the interior of the greenhouse that runs under the ridge, featuring planks and a trolley that run along the length of the greenhouse. To use it, workers simply snap their safety harnesses the trolley that runs under the ridge to access the roof vent and maintain the screens.

 

The other cutting-edge feature that this large R&D grower wanted to embrace is Agra Tech’s Agri Kool, a positive pressure cooling system designed to prevent insect entry into the greenhouse growing area. Developed in 1992, this system has proven to be superior over negative pressure cooling, the way many greenhouses were using for decades and still do.

Positive Pressure cooling system being installed

Positive Pressure cooling being installed

“Positive pressure is better at keeping insects out and that’s the bottom line,” Adam Pound said. “This client started using it several years ago and eventually they will be using it in all of their 60 greenhouses. Positive pressure also leads to higher crop yields, temperature uniformity and faster plant growth. Scientists that are developing seeds need uniform temperatures and they also don’t want to have to use pesticides during the growth stage, because they can impede growth. Whenever you spray a pesticide on a plant, it will slow down its growth for days, even weeks. By using our patented positive pressure system, the plants can grow uninterrupted.”

Adam_Pound

Adam_Pound

Adam Pound and the Pound family are pleased to be working with all of its customers—from small mom and pop operations all the way to the largest corporations in the world—but signing a contract with a massive R&D company is certainly big news and a very good thing for Agra Tech, Adam Pound said.

“By being associated with a well-known name is good for the company and good for our future,” he said. “We’re big enough to handle any size project and small enough to be responsive. We give them all the best customer service in the industry. By offering our clients more value, we make their decisions a little easier. It’s all about building relationships in any business and this one is surely no exception.”

Written by Edmund Attanasio

Ed

Lassen Canyon Nursery Produces the World’s Finest Strawberry Plants

Lassen Canyon new Solar Light

Founded in the 1950s, the Lassen Canyon Nursery grows a quarter billion strawberry plants in California, Mexico and China every year while also growing hay on 930 acres. With its headquarters in Redding, CA and multiple locations worldwide, this company is well-known for producing strawberry plants that are healthy and strong for their customers all over the world, including huge growers (such as Dole, Sweet Darling and Naturipe Farms) all the way to small do-it-yourselfers with modest backyard gardens.

Clip_2Pete Stone, 57, has been working for the nursery for the past 30 years. He started out in the office and today he is the company’s Tissue Culture Lab Manager and also in charge of its Caneberry Project. The caneberry is a family of delicate berries that grow on tough but thin woody canes and thrive in a cool, moist climate. Caneberries include raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries and the company is currently performing research in order to produce caneberry plants that will be healthy and thriving in any environment.

Lassen Canyon Nursery is a long-time customer of Agra Tech, Inc., commercial greenhouse manufacturers. Stone has a total of eight greenhouses that were purchased from Agra Tech and has plans to buy eight more in the very near future. He values Agra Tech’s knowledge and experience and often relies on them for new, innovative ways to be productive and efficient.

One of these ideas concerned rolling benches for Stone and his operation, he explained. “Jim Bergantz at Agra Tech and I started talking about rolling benches and we wanted them too, but previously we were using solid benches and they offered us zero flexibility. These rolling benches give us a large walkway that can be moved and they allow us to use every square inch of our greenhouse. They make a lot of sense and have already paid for themselves, because now we’re saving time and we’ve increased our volume as a result.”

Rolling Benches

Lassen Canyon Nursery uses two types of structures to grow strawberry plants and perform research and development—screen houses and greenhouses, Stone explained. “We use our screen houses that don’t have real walls—they’re made out of screens, because we want that chill on the berries. For that reason, they’re not completely enclosed. Then, we use our conventional greenhouses primarily for seeding the strawberries and taking them through their formative weeks. The two have very distinct functions and that’s why they look so different.”

raypound

Ray Poundagcon

Stone called upon Ag-Con, Inc. in San Jose, CA to construct the new greenhouses, an experience Stone said was seamless and drama-free. “Ray Pound and Lisa Schultz at Ag-Con make an amazing team and they made the construction easy for us. They built all eight of our greenhouses for us and they took roughly a week to do each one—complete and ready to use. I would suggest to anyone that they should use Ag-Con for the construction, because they’re totally professional and great to work with. They know how to get the right permits, which is a big part of the process and if they run into obstacles, they know how to take care of it, which is important.”

Starting in September, the strawberry plants go out to be grown in soil by Lassen Canyon’s thousands of customers. “Our goal is to ship the strawberry plants and have them in the soil within 72 hours,” Stone said. “Right before we ship them, we expose them to 240 hours at 45 degrees, so that we trick them and they store energy. That way, they are robust and ready for planting once they reach our customers’ farms. In 60-90 days, our customers will have beautiful, juicy strawberries that are consistently of the highest quality you’ll find anywhere.”

The future looks berry, berry good for Lassen Canyon Nursery, according to Stone. “We’re going to expand and get more greenhouses to accommodate our Caneberry Project as well as increase our volume overall. In everything we do, were looking for a better berry so that when they show up in grocery store produce departments, they look right and taste right. By working with Agra Tech and Ag-Con we’re able to excel and grow as we strive to find the perfect berry!”

Lassen North Slope inside

Lassen North Slope inside

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