Tag Archives: commercial greenhouses

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
TrustED Advertising

California Berry Cultivars is a World-Class “Strawberry Start-Up”

Agra Tech Solar Light 30 x 60' long with Benches, a Roof Vent for natural ventilation, Fan & Pad cooling, Heating, and Energy Saving Shade Curtains.

Agra Tech Solar Light 30 x 60′ long with Benches, a Roof Vent for natural ventilation, Fan & Pad cooling, Heating, and Energy Saving Shade Curtains.

To develop the strawberries of the future with all of the attributes that a strawberry lover covets–such as sugar content, juiciness and that perfect texture–California Berry Cultivars (CBC) in Oxnard, CA is using cutting-edge technology to create amazing strawberries. And that’s why they recently purchased a 1,800 square foot Solar Light greenhouse from Agra Tech, commercial greenhouse manufacturer. CBC has been using this greenhouse since mid-2016 to achieve their pursuit of the ultimate strawberry.image010

CBC’s Project Leader Kyle VandenLangenberg, 32, has a PhD in Horticulture and his role in the company is to successfully complete its mission of developing and releasing new varieties (or cultivars) for strawberry growers through the process of plant breeding. This involves crossing unique things together to create unique combinations. By testing literally thousands of different types of strawberries produced from dozens of different cross combinations and whittling the number down to less than a handful, VandenLangenberg is able to find the best-of-the-best while discarding the rest, he explained.

“We’re taking a ‘shotgun’ approach in order to find that one type of strawberry that will possess all of the qualities we’re looking for,” VandenLangenberg said. “We run these large numbers in order to find a strawberry plant that is hopefully superior over the previous ones and that is why we’re using this Agra Tech greenhouse. It’s an environment that is very conducive to growing mother plants and monitoring pollen production as well as germinating the seeds we produce in order to grow seedlings. Strawberry plants are extremely delicate, especially when they’re very young, so we need a sophisticated structure like this greenhouse to do all of our work the right way.”

When the strawberry plants are babies (less than a 1/2 centimeter wide), they’re called “germinates” and extremely sensitive to the temperature, humidity, and moisture content of the growing medium they’re in. This is a very crucial time in their lives and that’s why CBC needs a greenhouse that can protect them during this stage.image005

“We need complete environmental control and when you lose that, things can really go wrong,” VandenLangenberg said. “You can get disease outbreaks, slow growth or growth that is too rapid and time is everything when it comes to strawberries. We have to germinate on a specific day and we need to see a certain amount of growth by the time we take them out of the greenhouse and plant them in the ground. It’s a balancing act all the time in this business.

You can’t afford to cut corners or make a mistake when you’re trying to create the greatest and latest strawberries of the world, VandenLangenberg said.  “Strawberries are a crop where the errors of the past will haunt you in the future and that’s why this greenhouse is such an important part of what we’re doing here. If the early steps that we take in the greenhouse are done incorrectly we will pay down the road, so we have to get it right the first time if we’re going to succeed. Because the development time for new cultivars is between 6 to 10 years, mistakes earlier on could really set us back. So, creating an environment that we can completely control and rely on is a must.”

CBC’s busy schedule will keep their Agra Tech greenhouse busy 10 months out of the year. The company’s cross-breeding is performed in the winter months, followed by a rolling seed collection process through the spring. After a quick clean and turn-around they switch gears and begin germinating in July and grow their transplants for the next two months. CBC will produce roughly 100,000-plus seeds and thousands of transplants every year, according to VandenLangenberg.

Working with Agra Tech to get a greenhouse that would fit their needs, specifically, was a huge step, VandenLangenberg explained. “We realized early on in the process that we needed a top-end greenhouse and that’s what we have. We’re a small startup company so value was a major factor and we looked at a wide range of options before selecting Agra Tech. Kira Construction built the greenhouse based on Agra Tech’s recommendations and it was completed right on time.”

In order to set themselves up for a bright future, VandenLangenberg and his team worked closely with their Agra Tech’s sales engineer Jim Bergantz. “We started the conversation with Agra Tech back in 2015 and were immediately impressed by Jim Bergantz for his knowledge about the industry. We sat down and put together a plan that had everything we needed. The service that Jim provided was great and he really worked with us to get it done. There are two departments within the greenhouse, separated by a custom designed inner-wall, allowing us to run two separate environments exactly the way we want it.”

Now that CBC’s Agra Tech greenhouse is up and running VandenLangenberg is confident that he made the right decision by going with Agra Tech, he said. “There’s a bunch of plants in there right now and they’re doing well, so yes–I am happy about our decision to go with Agra Tech and we hope to work with them more in the future as our business grows.”

Article by Edmund Attanasio

image006

Agra Tech Solar Light 30′ x 60′

image008

Completed greenhouse showing screen boxes over the exhaust fans

DSCN4948

Construction meeting

Agra Tech’s Jim Bergantz Makes Permitting Presentation at 2016 Indoor Ag Tech Conference

2016IndoorAG-JimSpeaking
Agra Tech, Inc. is one of the largest manufacturers of commercial greenhouses in the Western US, but they do so much more than selling structures and growing systems to greenhouse farmers. Since day one, Agra Tech has played an integral role in helping to advise the entire industry and assisting people as they enter this field. To this end, the experienced and highly-skilled professionals at Agra Tech speak at seminars, conferences and other events. They don’t get paid for these presentations, but do it for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

Recently, Jim Bergantz, a sales engineer for Agra Tech, made a presentation in front of 150 people at the 4th Annual Indoor Ag Conference in Las Vegas. The title of his speech was Navigating the Road to Obtaining Your Greenhouse Building Permit.

The blog team at Agra Tech sat down with Bergantz to discuss the ins and outs of permitting and his knowledge about the topic–accumulated by helping customers with their permitting over the past decade.

Q: Tell us about your background in permitting and how you’ve helped your customers to attain permits for their projects?
JB:
I gained a lot of experience by building my own home and as working as a sales engineer with ATI. I have worked with a wide range of customers pursuing permits, helping them with their research and working closely with builders and customers as they navigate through this potentially arduous process.  By developing relationships with building department contacts and permit acquisition specialists, I have accumulated a vast amount of information that I can use to help our customers who need permits before they can build their greenhouses. By knowing the obstacles and pitfalls, I can guide them through the process and help them to find the right resources.

Q: Organization is the key. Tell us why and how you help your customers to be organized in this process?
JB:
Thinking the entire process through is important. If you know what to expect, you won’t run into surprises that can delay the permitting process. In some cases, there are things you can anticipate, like Kit Foxes on your property and the environmental concerns associated with that. But by carefully preparing the information that will be required, including things such as the structural engineering for the project, our customers can put them in the best position that they can possibly be in. Things such as local regulations will change, but if you’re organized, you can deal with them and get the permitting done as drama-free as possible.

Q: What are the areas where people seem to drop the ball when it comes to permitting?
JB:
By not providing the correct answers and by not completing the proper information for the building and planning department. It is not an easy process and some people get intimidated. They underestimate the time that it takes to get a project online and in some cases, they think they can do it alone.

 Q: What is your success rate in this regard?
JB:
We have a very high degree of success, because between all of us at Agra Tech, we have well over 300 years of greenhouse engineering and manufacturing experience combined.

Q: Is it a trial and error type of thing? It seems like a lot of these permitting projects have to be re-submitted before they go through?
JB:
It’s an investigation type of thing, depending upon the location of the proposed greenhouse and the depth of the requirements. When resubmission is required, we are there to help and provide as many answers as possible regarding the structural engineering of the Agra Tech greenhouse and we are in the loop until we get the project online.

Q: How can you find a good, reliable person to help your customers as they navigate through the process?
JB:
The first thing we tell people is ask everyone  concerned–local contractors are  an excellent source, county offices and the local economic development  department are all good places to start. In each area, it is different. It could be a contractor or a retired building department employee or an engineer. For example, in Stanislaus County an electrical contractor has a team of engineers and strong relationships with county departments. Another one is in San Diego County, where a retired building department official who knows the ins and outs of obtaining permits in that county is our go-to person there. Therefore, it differs based on the region.

Q: So, it is tougher to get building permits in certain states/regions?
JB:
Definitely. California is one that requires a very organized approach, while Florida, on the other hand, makes it relatively simple, comparatively speaking.

Q: What role do you play in these permitting projects?
JB:
I am a resource and project advocate and my role is one of support and guidance. I help our customers understand what is involved and prepare them for what is expected.

Q: What was your response for this presentation and how many people attended?
JB:
It was extremely positive with lots of interaction. There was a lot of interest in this topic and approximately 150 people attended the presentation.

Q: Tell us a specific scenario where your knowledge & experience helped a customer to get a permit for their greenhouse project?
JB:
Of course. Dave Wilson Nursery in Stanislaus County is a prime example.     We located and connected them with a permit acquisition specialist–Brett Russell, of Interstate Electric. Then, we conducted a team meeting with the customer to develop a proposal.  We crafted the proposal very carefully, making sure we answered all the potential questions and addressed areas that may cause concern.  We made sure to include input from people at work on every aspect of the project. The team has years of experience interfacing with building officials which proved to be very important as the process unfolded.  The team developed the specs and the documents required to submit the permit package and, with perseverance, it went through with flying colors. By working with us in conjunction with Brett Russell, who knew the process in his county, our customer was successful in accomplishing their goal of receiving a permit. The time and energy they put in to prepare their permit package really paid off in the end.

By Edmund Attanasio, May 24, 2016