Tag Archives: greenhouse growers

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.”


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


Dr. Matthew Stong Sets Greenhouse Growers for Success

When greenhouse farmers require some much-needed help and sage advice, they call a doctor. But he’s not a medical doctor—he’s an agricultural doctor and one of the leading experts on the subject of indoor farming in the world today. By working with greenhouse growers all over the world, Dr. Matthew Stong, Ph.D., is making the planet a healthier place to live, by teaching indoor farmers the importance of organic, sustainable and environmentally-conscious growing techniques. He is the Chief Science Officer at EcoFarms International in Redwood City, CA, a global facilitator of sustainable organic agriculture. Over the years, Dr. Stong has developed a mutually beneficial business relationship with Agra Tech, Inc., in Pittsburg, CA, a company that manufactures commercial greenhouses and provides affordable solutions to Dr. Stong and his greenhouse clients.

Dr. Stong knows the greenhouse industry like the back of his hand and that’s why people from all over the world use him for assistance in establishing greenhouse operations and setting them up for success. He advises his clients on how to set up their greenhouses; identifying the best crops to grow in their particular regions and even assists them in finding viable markets for each. It’s been a winning formula for many years and his list of happy customers is a testament to his knowledge and passion for greenhouse growing and sustainable organic agriculture.

Dr. Stong, 41, has an impressive resume, including his experience with the World Bank and later as a consultant for the prestigious Mandarin Group in China, a controlled environment agricultural engineering company. During his work in China, Dr. Stong designed, built and managed greenhouse hydroponics-based operations. In addition, he was a visiting researcher/lecturer at the Taiwan National University under the USDA’s International National Needs Fellows Program. Dr. Stong holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and a M.S. degree in Soil and Water Science from the University of California. He focuses mainly on the scientific and technical issues within EcoFarms and responsible for the transformation of capital – be it monetary, intellectual, or political – into technology in furtherance of the company’s objectives.

Dr. Stong is a consultant, but he also is a greenhouse farmer himself, managing and producing organic crops out of two acres containing two large Agra Tech greenhouses in New Mexico. At EcoFarms International, the mission is to further develop and embody the global development of socially conscious and sustainable agriculture.

“Our controlled-environment greenhouse biosystems provide the optimal foundation from which to build sustainable, locally-grown, organic produce,” EcoFarm’s website stated. “By growing delicious, nutritious organic produce all year round with minimal environmental impact and carbon foot print is definitely the future of food production in the world. More and more people are seeking out high quality, wholesome foods that are both local, sustainable and 100% free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We’re producing premium organic vegetables and fruits that have been picked ripe and delivered fresh for optimal flavor and nutritional value. We will improve the carbon foot print of food from farm to table by integrating state of the art technology and distribution systems.”

The organic foods business is the fastest growing segment in US agriculture, according to EcoFarms International. Currently the demand for organic foods is 10 times greater than what is being produced. In 2008, this industry produced $23 billion in sales and is estimated to grow at a rate of 18% per year. Fresh fruits and vegetables represent 39% percent of this huge market and are forecast to increase in sales by 83% in the next ten years.

DR. Stong is a strong believer in the theory that if you build a greenhouse growing environment that produces good food, people will seek it out, and that’s why he enjoys getting greenhouse growers started in the business, he said. “My entire philosophy is by providing assistance and information to small greenhouse growers,” Dr. Stong said. “We can provide a very valuable tool for them by allowing them access to our knowledge and experience. Smaller greenhouse farmers can’t afford big greenhouse consultants, and that’s why we keep our prices affordable. The new trend is moving toward more small greenhouses in different locations, as opposed to larger greenhouse operations in one location. That way, there’s more variety and more quality.”

Dr. Stong has been working with Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading commercial greenhouse companies, for several years and respects the manufacturer for its vast knowledge and excellent customer service. “I really appreciate working with the Pound family, the owners of Agra Tech,” Stong explained. “Their service, support and entire approach to this industry definitely set them apart from their competitors, and that’s why I work with Agra Tech.”

Dr. Stong also likes the fact that Agra Tech makes affordable greenhouses of all sizes, in order to accommodate farmers both large and small. “I have discovered that Agra Tech’s prices are probably the best in the industry,” Dr. Stong said. “In addition, their delivery is top-notch. If I order something and I need it in a pinch, the people at Agra Tech make sure that I will get it as quickly as humanly possible. If something needs to be fixed, for example, I can get things from them within 3-4 days, and that means a lot.”

By Ed Attanasio