John Pound Builds Agra Tech, Inc., Into a leading Commercial Greenhouse Manufacturer

 

John ready to deliver a Solar Light 18 to Sonoma College – about 1976

John Pound, 65 has been running Agra Tech, Inc. for 41 years after founding this commercial greenhouse manufacturing company in Salinas, CA in 1973. Things have changed in many ways since John Pound began this successful company, but his passion hasn’t waned one iota. “People used to ask me how were you able to start a greenhouse business at 24,” Pound said. “But, today I’m the old man in this industry, so things have truly changed.”

Pound went to UC Davis and got a degree in Agriculture Economics and Business Management in 1971, after completing two years at junior college. Growing up in Walnut Creek, Calif., Pound’s father had a small retread car tire business for many years, so John already had a glimpse of what it was like to own and run your own business. But, at that time greenhouse manufacturing wasn’t even something Pound was even remotely considering. “After graduation I got a job at a mid-size farm in Salinas,” he said. “They hired me as their Agricultural Economist and one of the first projects I started working on was the proposed construction of two one-acre greenhouses. They wanted to grow tomatoes and English cucumbers, so I put all the numbers together for them, including the costs and what they’d make. They reviewed it and were obviously impressed, because they said let’s go with it.”

At that point, Pound made a decision that eventually led to the forming of Agra Tech, Inc. “I went to the boss and I told him I can save you a ton of money by constructing these greenhouses for you. Instead of hiring a contractor, just buy the materials and I’ll build it for you. They said, what do you know about building a greenhouse? And I told them when I was 15 I re-modeled my parent’s house, so I know how to build stuff, that’s no big deal and I can tell people what to do. So that’s how it started.”

Nine months later, both of the greenhouses were built, as Pound promised, and the crops were already planted and growing. Things started moving quickly after that and pretty soon other offers for building greenhouses were dropping in his lap. “The company that sold us those two greenhouses asked me would I build more greenhouses for them and I said yes,” Pound said. “Then another company approached us and said we’re starting a company making greenhouses, will you build for us too? Of course, I agreed.”

After looking at the business model more carefully and continually learning on the job, Pound was able to start building greenhouses. “Since I was an Agricultural Economist, I knew exactly what it costs to build a greenhouse, including how long it takes to put up a truss; to put on the glazing and put in doors, vents and all the hours it took to do it all. So, when I looked at what I could earn, I said wow–this sure beats hourly wages!”

Pound seized the opportunity, got his contractor’s license, business license and hit the ground running in 1973. “We were having success building greenhouses (the company’s name back then was Agra Techniques), but after a while I thought, I can make these things,” he explained. “So, we found a good fabricator and started making greenhouses, as well as selling them to other people and then building them ourselves.”

During those first 6-8 years, Agra Tech also got involved in other types of building projects, including retail shade structures, remodels and repairs to pay the bills. “It was very tough at the beginning, because it took time to find vendors, and establish relationships to get it to happen. The greenhouse growers were a tight-knit group and they weren’t exactly embracing a young, inexperienced guy initially. But after a while we started to build a name in this industry and things got a lot easier. And that’s pretty much how it all started.”

Part II: Agratech Grows in the 80s and 90s as the Commercial Greenhouse Industry Blossoms

Article by Ed Attanasio

One thought on “John Pound Builds Agra Tech, Inc., Into a leading Commercial Greenhouse Manufacturer

  1. Bob Scavetta

    What a great story. I’m glad john has put it for everyone to see. I’m proud that I was some part of the Agra Tech picture and had John for my boss.

    Reply

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