Tag Archives: greenhouse hydroponics

Agra Tech Plays a Role in the Helical Outpost® Project

Helical Agra Tech

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses, Agra Tech in Pittsburg, CA is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the industry and a huge part of that is acting as consultants for cutting-edge companies. One of these examples is their involvement in the Helical Outpost® project, a sustainable, state-of-the-art, plug-and-play food, water, electricity and communication system that comes in a box and can be easily transported. It is intended to create global goodwill, reduce poverty and hunger and improve health for communities here in the United States and worldwide.

So, what exactly is a Helical Outpost®, designed and manufactured Helical Holdings, a company with its headquarters in Lafayette, LA? Well, in simple terms, it is a sustainable, integrated, and relocatable hydroponic greenhouse and power station featuring satellite Internet access and a water filtration system that produces up to 2,000 gallons of clean water daily, generating up to 10.8 kilowatt hours of commercial grade solar power and yields approximately 2,300 crop units per week.

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Inside Agra Tech Insulator 30 greenhouse with NFT Hydroponics and Vine crops

The growing capacity with the Helical Outpost is impressive and designed to have an immediate impact on a community’s food and entrepreneurship options rather quickly once implemented. Its hydroponic farm uses 80% less water and produces more produce in 6,000 square feet than the equivalent of 3 acres of conventional farming in the soil.  All of these resources unpack from a shipping container with plug and play capabilities that can be easily deployed nearly anywhere in the world, according to the company’s website.

 

Helical leaf-lettuce

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Helical lettuce

Lettuce ready to pick

How did this amazing project begin and how many Helical Outposts are currently in operation? We asked Helical Co-founder, Kohlie Frantzen. “We were inspired by the experiences of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan witnessing the need for basic resources like food, water, electricity and communications,” he said, noting that the veterans observed, “If a man’s family is starving and he doesn’t have any options, when someone asks him to pick up a gun in return for food for his family, he will likely do it. But if he has options and his family is fed, he is more likely to say no to something like that.” Frantzen noted, “There are currently two Outposts up and running in Virginia and Louisiana. Both of these Outposts are training hubs for veterans to learn how the Helical Outpost operates and is used for fresh, local produce.”

 

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The concept is to provide humanitarian relief anywhere it is needed.

Interestingly, Frantzen noted that the need for Outpost standardization and relocatability is not limited to international applications. “We discovered the need for accessible resources is just as important across town as it is across the world.”

To refine and develop the concept, Frantzen decided to tap into the experience and knowledge offered by Agra Tech for advice about the greenhouse aspect of the Helical Post project. “The people at Agra Tech are committed to the greenhouse industry and we could see instantly that they wanted to be involved in some capacity,” he said. “Adam Pound and the rest of the Pound family brought their knowledge and skills to this project to come up with solutions that would work for us. We were working on making it as modular as it can be and also standardization is another big factor. We now have a standard system that can easily be set up and integrated into the community quickly and Agra Tech played a role in all of that.”

With a promising future and a goal of changing the world one Helical Outpost at a time, Frantzen is hopeful and not afraid to imagine big things. “In the song Imagine by John Lennon it says–‘You can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  And I hope someday you’ll join us…’ We have a group of artists, scientists, fabricators, war veterans and other great innovators working on this project and none of us are afraid to imagine and dream about a great future. This project will always be changing and evolving as technology evolves and changes,” he said. For instance, solar panels became more powerful and affordable now than when we began the project. If we could have 1,000 Outposts out there in the world helping communities to solve so many issues they currently face–that would be phenomenal. As we strategically rollout this solution and it continually proves itself and gets better, while working with Agra Tech and other industry leaders, we can only anticipate big, big things.”

Article by Edmund Attanasio

Helical AgraTech Lights

Go Green Agriculture Goes with Agra Tech Greenhouse

gogreen_logoGo Green Agriculture is a family-owned farm in Encinitas, CA that grows leafy greens without soil in climate-controlled greenhouses made by Agra Tech, Inc. in Pittsburg, CA,commercial greenhouse manufacturer . The company grows lettuce, kale, spinach and basil year-round by carefully manipulating the light, humidity, temperature and nutrients, among other things, to produce ½ million plants for sale every month, through a wide range of retailers, including Barons Market, Safeway and Whole Foods, to name a few.

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Pierre Sleiman excited  about his new Agra Tech greenhouse

Last year, Pierre Sleiman, Jr. was honored as a member of The Champions of Change, a program that was created by the Obama administration as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Sleiman was honored for doing extraordinary things to assist the next generation of farmers and ranchers, according to the White House.

Sleiman is a member of the board of directors of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and business from UC Riverside and a master’s degree in business from UC San Diego. His idyllic vision is to have regional greenhouse farms all over the country, and eventually, why not the world?

“I can see a time when small greenhouse farms all over the United States will be serving their local communities with fresh vegetables and fruit,” Sleiman said. “We could vastly reduce the need of cross-country or international transportation that costs money, shelf life (time) and pollutes our earth with truck emissions. I’m not suggesting that all products can necessarily be grown locally and still be viable economically, but many crops surely can. With today’s technology, it’s possible… and we’re doing it.”

From the very beginning, Sleiman was entertaining big ideas while other kids were playing video games or hanging out at the mall. “I was that kid who keeps taking my parent’s radio apart and trying to figure how it works,” he explained. “I also had a dream about integrating technology with agriculture to find better and healthier ways to grow food. I believe that my role is to further integrate information systems technology with greenhouse automation and hydroponics to develop an effective system that will allow farming to be integrated into urban living and therefore create a more sustainable, local and safer food supply.”

Until about a year ago, Go Green was leasing greenhouse space in existing structures, until they decided to purchase a brand-new greenhouse from Agra Tech, Inc. “We searched for greenhouse companies and after talking to several of them, we went with Agra Tech,” Sleiman said. “We like the fact that they are located here in California, for one. And we wanted to have a greenhouse that we could customize and pretty much start from scratch and that’s what we got from Agra Tech.”

Another factor that swayed the Sleimans in Agra Tech’s direction was their customer service and specifically, their Agra Tech rep, Jim Bergantz. “The people at Agra Tech definitely made the difference and the customer service has been great since day one. Jim Bergantz will drive here to help us at the drop of a dime and it’s at least a 10-hour drive. He was willing to sit down with us and find a solution that was ideal for what we were trying to do and today our greenhouse looks gorgeous and we couldn’t be happier.”

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Agra Tech Continental greenhouse in production

 

By: Edmund Attanasio

Dr. Matthew Stong Sets Greenhouse Growers for Success

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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