Tag Archives: Greenhouse 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

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

Agra Tech and Ridder/HortiMaX North America Nurture Growing Relationship

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By aligning itself with top companies worldwide, Agra Tech, Inc. is able to be on the cutting edge of every aspect of the commercial greenhouse farming industry and offering its customers world-class solutions. One of these beneficial relationships is with Ridder/HortiMaX North America, a global company with local offices in Ontario, California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. By incorporating products and systems manufactured by Ridder/HortiMaX North America into greenhouses made by Agra Tech in Pittsburg, CA, it is an alliance that benefits both parties, as well as greenhouse growers and ultimately consumers.

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Ron Daemen is the President of Ridder/HortiMaX North America and pleased to be working with Agra Tech. By strategically looking at new products and systems and other ancillary products all the time, this international company with offices in seven countries, has already become a major player in the United States.

Ridder/HortiMax North America is always looking to support greenhouse growers worldwide to achieve better results through best fit growing technology together with their partners in the industry, including Agra Tech.

Daemen explained the business relationship his company has with Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial greenhouses. “Agra Tech is a reseller of our products and systems and for that reason they know us very well. With their knowledge and experience and our wide range of solutions for their customers all over the country, we work well together.”

The products and solutions that Ridder/HortiMax North America offers fit into three categories: Climate & Energy, Water & Nutrition and Labor & Productivity. By utilizing a strategic combination of these, the company can devise a solution for any greenhouse grower. Recently, Ridder/HortiMax North America also jumped into the climate screens industry, to add yet another product to its impressive lineup.

Ridder/HortiMax North America has been involved in several major greenhouse projects in the U.S., including Gotham Greens, a company that designs, builds and operates commercial scale greenhouse facilities in urban areas for fresh vegetable production. Since commencing production in early 2011, Gotham Greens has quickly become a worldwide pioneer in the field of urban agriculture and one of New York State’s leading producers of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown vegetables and herbs.

Ridder/HortiMaX North America is currently focusing on several U.S. greenhouse growing categories, Daemen explained. “Right now our customers are growing vegetables and marijuana in states where it’s legal and once more and more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana that market will grow. We also want to get more ornamental flower growers as customers, because we see significant future growth in that area. Whenever we decide to go after a certain market, we first have to determine its size and how our products can best serve it.”

Agra Tech and Ridder/HortiMax North America forged an alliance officially four years ago. “We started working with John Pound and his team at Agra Tech back in 2011,” Daemen said. “But they actually began purchasing Ridder products back in the 1990s. I expect our relationship with Agra Tech will continue to flourish, because they are a strong company with an impressive track record. We both value customer service and that is important to any business relationship, because in the end we want to serve our customers and the industry. Here at Ridder/HortiMax, we believe in treating the customer how we would want to be treated, and I know that the Pound family does too.”

It’s a two-fold mutually beneficial alliance, because Agra Tech brings valuable leads to Ridder/HortiMax North America and vice versa, according to Daemen. “With our products and systems and Agra Tech’s knowledge and skills, we can provide a great combination of viable solutions for any greenhouse operation—large or small and regardless of what they’re growing.”

What does Daemen think about the future of commercial greenhouse growing in North America and worldwide? “It looks exceedingly positive. Consumers are demanding better quality and healthier food. Today’s greenhouse technology will help growers to deliver on these demands. At Ridder-HortiMaX, we’re always doing research and development to come up with better products and solutions, so that we can best serve our partners and customers all over the planet.”