Tag Archives: commercial farmers

California Transplants Helps Farmers to Get a Growing Start

Plants are accessed through drop down sidewalls and loaded onto carts.California Transplants in Newman, CA was established in 1997 when Ted Woods, a grower with more than three decades of experience in the vegetable transplant industry started his business. Today the farm operates under approximately 1.9 million square feet of plastic. The plastic we’re referring sits atop the 274 greenhouses that California Transplants uses and maintains on their 100-acre farm.

Transfer cart travels between houses and is filled from both sides.

Transfer cart travels between houses and is filled from both sides.

Benches partly emptied through drop down sidewalls.

Benches partly emptied through drop down sidewalls.

Benches full ready for off loading

Benches full ready for off loading

“Tomatoes grown for processing purposes make up 95% of our business and the other items we grow such as fresh market tomatoes and broccoli fill in some of the gaps,” Woods said. “These fill-in crops will change based on our customers’ needs.” In the past, California Transplants has grown things such as peppers, cauliflower, melons, cabbage and many other specialty crops over the years.

The business model at California Transplants is all about expediency, quality and convenience. “The farmer brings us the seeds and we germinate them, grow the plants and ship it to him,” Woods said. “We get the orders well in advance and then we fill them, so we never grow anything unless our farmers want it. We have eight salesmen that cover the state and our crew varies based on volume and the time of year. We’re in an ideal location, because of our dry and arid site above the valley fog. And due to our central location, we’re able to deliver our transplants to the field with little turnaround time.”

By closely monitoring the seeding, germination and transplanting of all its plants, California Transplants produces hearty seedlings that grow into healthy crops. By maintaining a clean, carefully controlled growing Woods and his crew are able to give its customers a disease-free start plants to their growing season.

“Fresh market” tomatoes are tomato transplants that are grown by California’s customers that are farmers primarily in California to ultimately be sold in grocery stores statewide. “Processing” tomatoes are also transplants, but in the end they go to canneries to end up as tomato paste, sauce diced tomatoes and ketchup, to adorn hamburgers and French Fries worldwide.

After working for other growers for almost 20 years, Woods decided to make the leap to owning his own operation, when a group of investors approached him. “They asked me to start my own business and my contract had just expired with my former employer, so I said yes and put it all together. It’s been a very successful endeavor and I enjoy it. As long as I want to keep doing it, I have no plans to retire. I don’t really know what I would do if I was retired, because I’ve been doing this for so long.”

Ted’s son Mark worked for his father for many years until he came one day he went to his dad and told him that he had what you might call “growing plans.” “Mark worked for me and helped me to set up California Transplants and then it was time for him to move on and get his own thing started (Woods Transplants) and that has been great.”

Woods started working with Agra Tech when he founded California Transplants and “It has worked out well for all of us and it’s a great relationship,” he said. “Of the 274 greenhouses we have, all but 19 of them are from Agra Tech. Jim Bergantz, our rep from Agra Tech sells them to us; John Pound advises us: Anita Pound helps to engineer the structures and Ray Pound’s company Ag-Con in San Jose, CA does all of the construction. The people at Agra Tech are easy to work with and every time we’ve gone to them with requests, design modifications and things like that—they’re always willing to make it happen for us.”

By Ed Attanasio

AgraTech Helps Willits & Newcomb, Inc. to Keep the Bugs Out

Citrus in Screen house

Citrus growing in screen covered Agra Tech greenhouse

When a large citrus nursery discovered that the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) had been sighted in southern California and was coming their way, they needed help and they needed it right now. An aphid-like insect, the ACP will destroy every citrus tree it encounters and there is no way to stop it, so the nursery called Agra Tech, one of the world’s leading commercial greenhouse manufacturers, located in Pittsburg, CA. They also worked with Ag-Con, a greenhouse construction company located in San Jose, CA. The professionals at Agra Tech and Ag-Con possess more than 300 years of combined experience, designing and building controlled environment structures.

Located on 190 acres at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Willits & Newcomb, Inc. (W&N) is a full-service wholesale citrus nursery serving commercial growers and retail nurseries in California, Arizona and Nevada. The nursery grows a full range of citrus products, including ball-and-burlap trees, retail nursery trees, as well as citrus propagation materials including seed, budwood and seedlings. W & N citrus trees can be found in Costco’s each spring season.

Willits & Newcomb

Willits and Newcomb

W&N has grown and today the nursery produces 350,000 citrus trees and climbing. W&N’s citrus propagating materials are shipped to nursery people and researchers in over 110 nations worldwide. The company expanded into selling trees into the retail markets beginning in 1992 and continues to grow fabulous trees for that market.

W&N’s General Manager Gary Moles has been in the nursery business more than three decades, so he knew that the discovery of the ACP could potentially be the demise of W&N. “We knew we had to start going 100% indoors, in order to get full protection from the ACP and we needed a system we could rely on,” he said. “Thankfully, we called upon Agra Tech, because they knew what to do. The first part was the design and then the construction of what we call a head house. It’s the Cadillac of protection, using positive pressure. It pushes out the insects instead of sucking them out. If there is a breech in the head house, there is enough air pushing out to not let them in.”

Other modifications devised by Agra Tech have made life a lot easier for W&N, Moles explained. “We now dispense air more evenly and have cut down the noise of the system, which is better for our employees. We can have up to 40 people working in the head house, re-planting, shipping trees and doing their daily work, so we want it to be as comfortable as we can for our people. We also wanted to make sure that there is enough ventilation in the head house, so that everyone can work there.”

Willits Newcomb Connector House

Willits Newcomb Connector House with covered breezeways allow passage between houses while keeping the pests out.

Moles credits both Agra Tech and Ag-Con for the head house’s success. “We have a great relationship with both companies,” he said. “Between the two of them, they designed and built this head house (also called an insect exclusion structure) for us and it took a lot of work to get it done. It’s a one of a kind head house and a working area for our people. It connects three of our greenhouses and is completely climate-controlled, so that we can store the heat in the wintertime and vent out the heat in the summer. We were looking for a viable and affordable solution and Agra Tech, in conjunction with Ag-Con hit a home run.”

Moles wants to keep working with Agra Tech and Ag-Con, because he values their expertise and out-of-the-box thinking, he said. “We are now looking for other projects to do with Agra Tech and Ag-Con. We’re going to upgrade two of our existing greenhouses to make them climate controlled. We bought them ten years ago, so it’s time. We’ve been blessed to work with these two companies, because they’re attentive, available and are all about finding answers for us. We’re confident that the bugs will stay out if and when they do arrive, because Agra Tech and Ag-Con are helping us to achieve it.”

Willits and Newcomb Insulator Greenhouses

Willits and Newcomb Insulator Greenhouses

Jim Bergantz, sales engineer at Agra Tech loves helping companies like W&N, he said. “I really enjoy helping customers by working together with Agra Tech’s technical team to create the best possible solution! Working closely with John, Eloise and Anita Pound at Agra Tech is amazing. Then out in the field, with a customer like W&N I take their knowledge and collaborate with John’s brother Ray Pound of Ag-Con on-site at the customer’s location. It’s incredible to be a part of this all-star team and when you see what we create and build for our customers, it makes me smile widely and with great pride!

Building Greenhouses Is Not Just a Job—It’s Also a Higher Calling at Kira Construction

Kira Logo For Agra TechKira Construction, Inc. is a North San Diego County-based construction company that builds greenhouses for a wide range of southern California growers, nurseries and propagation houses.  The highly experienced and knowledgeable team at Kira Construction taps into over 75 years of combined construction experience to build the best commercial greenhouses in the world, manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc., one of the leaders in the greenhouse industry.  With a stellar reputation based on safely producing quality greenhouses that feature exemplary workmanship, Kira Construction prides itself on offering some of the finest customer satisfaction in the industry today, by meeting stringent deadlines and completion projects on-time.

Agra Tech built by Kira Construction

Agra Tech built by Kira Construction

KIra Construction’s Owner Ralph Cox started working on greenhouses in 2009 when a friend called him and asked for help.  “A buddy of mine at Archi’s Acres (a San Diego greenhouse grower) called and asked me would I be willing to help them to build their greenhouse and I said why not,” Cox explained. “We built them an Agra Tech 35’ x 120’ greenhouse and we pretty much learned on the job. After that project, I decided to learn as much as I could about greenhouse construction and all of the other things that come with it, like hydroponic systems, bench fabrication, heating, etc. Now we specialize in ground-up greenhouse construction as well as renovations, modernizations, repairs, retrofits and additions to residential and commercial greenhouses and shade house industries. It’s become a big part of our business and now we’re known as the greenhouse construction company.”

Agra Tech construction

Agra Tech construction

Owner Ralph Cox started his company in 2008 after getting laid off as a Field Superintendent, a position he had held for 20 years.  He decided to pursue greenhouse construction as a full-time thing five years ago and he hasn’t looked back since. Cox likes the variety of the work and enjoys interacting with greenhouse farmers. “We work with large and small growers, nurseries, schools and institutions,” he said. “Many of them are commercial farmers, but we also get our fair share of hobbyists, who want smaller greenhouses, and that’s fine. ‘ No job too small or too large’ is our motto and every customer gets the same excellent customer service that we offer. As a North San Diego County greenhouse contracting company, we are able to build agricultural structures at fair, reasonable and competitive prices. And by working with Agra Tech, we have a distinct advantage, because every grower in this area knows and respects the Agra Tech name.”

Today, Kira Construction’s workload is almost all greenhouse construction. The company has a crew of six professionals and is busy almost all the time. “Our niche is now greenhouse construction and we’re proud to be in this industry,” Cox said. “Each project is totally different and that’s one thing I really like about this business. We may get a citrus grower one month and then the next month, we’ll do some work for a small grower of specialty leafy vegetables. It’s always changing and that keeps us excited, because we never know what’s going to happen next.”

Cox is happy to be working in an industry that is growing at a rapid rate. “More than ever, people want to grow their own food,” Cox said.  “There is a huge demand for locally grown organic foods and the benefits are two-fold. By growing high-quality food for their own consumption or to sell locally, these greenhouse growers are helping themselves, their families and the people in their region. We’re a construction company, but we have a higher calling and an important role in today’s society, because we create the structures in which this food is grown.”

Assembling an Agra Tech greenhouse is not a do-it-yourself job and Cox warns people that they will need assistance and guidance to put one together, for several reasons. “Some folks look at it and say—hey I can do this myself by working on it during the weekend,” Cox said. “But I tell them that it’s not that easy. Building an Agra Tech greenhouse is like building a small home. There is a lot of grading and planning and a certain level of complexity to do it right. A small greenhouse can take as little as one week to build, while a larger one can take up to 2-3 months, depending on the situation. My advice is to hire a construction company to assemble your greenhouse and avoid potential problems down the road.”

Cox loves the support and knowledge offered by the professionals at Agra Tech, Inc. “The people at Agra Tech are always available to give us advice and guide us through projects if needed,” Cox said. “Jim Bergantz is our contact at Agra Tech and we call on him often, because he is an incredible source of information and the guy is passionate about this industry. These people are focused on doing an excellent job and if we ever need anything, they’re right there to help us. If there is any issue, I know that Agra Tech will do whatever it takes to make it right and that’s why I love working with them.”