Tag Archives: Hydroponics

Commercial Greehouse - Noth Slope

War Veteran/Second-Generation Farmer Embraces Greenhouse Way

Commercial Greehouse - Noth Slope
Eric Boyd, 29, grew up on a 16-acre family farm in San Luis Obispo, CA., so he knows that farm work is hard and the hours are long. But, through a life-changing series of events, Boyd is now farming at his family farm but in a different way–by using a commercial greenhouse that he purchased from Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses and greenhouse growing systems.

Boyd joined the army at the age of 17 as a Cavalry Scout with his brother and served two tours in Iraq. He was shot in the leg and has a Purple Heart as a result.  In 2006, he returned to his hometown and started strategizing his next move. “I decided to go to school at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and studied soil science. I’ve always been interested in soil management. While I was attending Cal Poly, I found out about Archi’s Acres.”

Commercial Greenhouse - North SlopeArchi’s Acres is an organization that teaches military veterans about how to start sustainable, hydroponic, greenhouse, organic farms.  To reach out to these veterans and give a hand up (not a hand out), Colin and Karen Archipley created the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program, an intensive six-week agriculture entrepreneur school.  By making business opportunities available to veterans through farming, and capturing the entrepreneurial spirit with rigorous training, Archi’s Acres has helped countless veterans to pursue careers in farming nationwide.

Boyd wasn’t initially excited about the prospect of becoming a career farmer after graduating from Cal Poly last year, he said. “I wanted to do something with my B.S. in Soil Science and I certainly didn’t want to work at a farm. I grew up doing that—pulling weeds and running the tractor and living that life 24/7, so I didn’t want to spend my life working that hard. I saw what Archi’s Acres was doing, so I thought why not give it a try? I got a scholarship to attend their program, so I went ahead and did it.”

It was a fruitful undertaking, to say the least and it changed his mind about farming.  “At Archi’s Acres, I learned the basics of growing crops hydroponically in a greenhouse environment,” Boyd said. “But more importantly, they taught me some business skills—how to get funding, how to manage the business and how to do a business plan.”

After graduating from the program at Archi’s Acres, Boyd was highly prepared and poised to take on the world of hydroponic greenhouse farming. “With a full business plan ready to go, I was able to walk into the offices at the Farm Service Agency and get a loan at a great rate. It allowed me to put up my Agra Tech greenhouse and start my farm.”

Boyd sells his products with his family at farmer’s markets and Eric’s mother and his sister’s family is still running the family farm. But now, there is a 4,300 square-foot commercial Agra Tech greenhouse on their property and it’s called Pepper Creek Farms. “I have one quarter of an acre and that’s where I set up my greenhouse,” Boyd said. “I don’t need a lot of space and I can produce a ton of vegetables quickly. Coming from a background of conventional in-ground farming, this is the best way to go for what I’m growing. I’ve only been doing this since April, but I already love it.”

Pepper Creek Farms is currently producing leafy vegetables, primary lettuces and with an emphasis on Asian greens such as Bok Choy and Tatsoi, for example. The farm also grows living lettuces with root balls, which means they can stay fresh and last up to three weeks, if watered properly and/or kept in the refrigerator.

By growing a wide range of different leafy vegetables, Boyd was able to find the ideal crops for his operation, he explained. “I have tried 28 different varieties since I started to see what will grow well and what people want. Now I’m down to growing four types of Asian greens and I’m comfortable with that.”

Boyd is also selling his produce directly to chefs at top local restaurants, he said, benefitting from some free meals as a result. “I grow some specialty items for certain restaurants, such as watercress,” Boyd said. “The chefs will invite me in and ask me to try their dishes using my products and I really enjoy that. We sell directly to restaurants, because they value the organic, sustainable nature of what we’re growing.”

Boyd is a rookie when it comes to greenhouse growing, but he loves the challenge and wants to thank all of the people who helped him on the journey that has taken him to Pepper Creek Farms. “Adam Pound, Jim Bergantz and James Roberts from Agra Tech were great and, of course, Colin and Karen at Archi’s Acres deserve my thanks. The people from American Hydro are also amazing. I’m learning more every day about this type of farming and I can see a great future for me. My hope is to expand and get another greenhouse eventually and start growing other types of things, as well as start selling to grocery stores in my area.”

Article by Ed Attanasio

North Slope greenhouse

Parsons Homegrown Grows Tomatoes That Get Attention

Kelly Parson showing off her tomatoes grown in her Agra Tech greenhouse

Kelly Parsons showing off  tomatoes grown in their Agra Tech Solar Light greenhouse

The Parsons family grows grapes and tomatoes in Fulton, Calif., a farm they established in 1994. Today, Kelley and Tom Parsons at Parsons Homegrown grow some of the finest tomatoes in California, by using a greenhouse the couple purchased from Agra Tech, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of greenhouses designed for vegetable growing and all other types of greenhouse farming. Currently Parsons Homegrown grows three varieties of tomatoes–Favorita, a cherry tomato; Geronimo, a red beefsteak, and Yellow Boy, a yellow beefsteak.

The genesis of this thriving farm started randomly and unexpectedly in the early 1990s. Kelley was selling insurance and looking for a way to make a profit from the land they currently owned in Fulton. While working on insurance for a hydroponic greenhouse operation Kelly recognized that it might be a viable business for her and her family. The Parsons also starting growing grapes in 2001, when they replanted on old vineyard and now they sell 8.5 acres of pinot noir to Siduri Wines each year.

During that first year, Parsons Homegrown sold their tomatoes to Oliver’s Market in Cotati. By 1997, she became a vendor at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market and at the Healdsburg Farmers Market. Today, she also attends the Windsor Farmers Market and sells to several other markets and restaurants.

“At the beginning, we were using a greenhouse provided by another company,” Parsons explained. “But we discovered that their greenhouse was not designed specifically for our part of California. It was designed more for a colder climate. So, I contacted Agra Tech and we knew right away that they were going to be a local supporter of our business. I like the fact that Agra Tech is nearby, so if we want to go there and meet with them, we have that option.”

The switch to an Agra Tech greenhouse has helped Parsons to produce amazing tomatoes time after time, she said. “We plant our tomato seeds in our 5,800-square foot Agra Tech greenhouse every September and in a typical season, the harvest begins in January. The greenhouse holds exactly 1,512 plants, yielding roughly 1,200 pounds of tomatoes  weekly. Solar panels deliver power for our fans, lights and irrigation and natural gas generates the heat the plants will need.”  When there is a surplus of tomatoes, Parsons calls in some volunteers to help harvest the tomatoes, which she then donates to local organizations such as The Living Room and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

The tomato plants grow in purlite, a volcanic sand that is extremely light and airy.  As a hydroponic greenhouse operation, water does all the work by delivering nutrients to the plants and carrying away waste.

To do her due diligence and conduct research about the right way to use her Agra Tech greenhouse, Parsons visited Emerisa Gardens in Santa Rosa, CA, another Agra Tech customer. Emerisa Gardens  is a wholesale nursery that specializes in four-inch plants emphasizing hardy and unusual perennials, herbs, and ornamental grasses, and also carries a selection of perennials and shrubs in one-gallons, unusual and classic roses in both the one-gallon and five-gallon size and a selection of Phormiums primarily in one-gallons. It was an eye opener for Parsons and she was instantly sold on the Agra Tech greenhouses.

“I liked how the Agra Tech greenhouse looked and what a great job it was doing for the people at Emerisa Gardens,” Parsons said. “Ray Pound, owner of Ag Con Construction and part of the Agra Tech family,  actually came here and laid it out for us. He set the posts and delivered the parts and we really liked working with him. Everyone at Agra Tech is passionate about what they do and you can see it quickly that they’re dedicated to customer service.”

By using an Agra Tech commercial greenhouse, Parsons Homegrown is now a greener company, Parsons said. “We’re more sustainable now and I don’t have to take a lot of plastic to the dump anymore. We used to have to replace our roof on our former greenhouse all the time, but with our ATI greenhouse, we don’t need to replace anything. Now our fans aren’t on all the time, which saves us on energy, which is essential. If we want natural air, we simply open up the side vents, so it’s a much better setup overall.”

If you live in the Northern California’s North Bay, you can find them at Shelton’s Market and Big John’s Market in Healdsburg, Molsberry’s Market in Santa Rosa, Speers Market in Forestville and to all three Oliver’s Markets. John Ash & Co. and Rosso Pizzeria and the Duck Club in Bodega Bay also buy Parsons tomatoes. If you want to meet this passionate farmer, you can always find Kelley Parsons at her stall at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

By Ed Attanasio

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Kelly Parsons and her beautiful tomatoes.

 

Interview with Hydroponics Pioneer Dr. Howard Resh

Dr Resh showing NFT hydroponic system

Dr Resh showing NFT hydroponic system

DR. Howard M. Resh, PhD is a universally known hydroponics researcher, author and practitioner and one of the world’s true pioneers in the field of hydroponics. He has incorporated commercial greenhouses from Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of greenhouses and considered a leader in the field, into several of his projects over the years and was kind enough to be interviewed for this article.

Well-known for implementing and managing commercial hydroponics operations worldwide, Dr. Resh has been the pivotal force behind successful hydroponics farming ventures in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, in addition to his efforts throughout North America. While he was a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, B.C beginning in the early 1970s, Dr. Resh developed plant cultural techniques and three-part nutrient formulations for the growing of vegetable crops in greenhouses, many of which are designed and built by Agra Tech, Inc.

In 1999, Dr. Resh started a hydroponics farm on the island of Anguilla, B.W.I, in the Eastern Caribbean where he farms today, featuring an Agra Tech commercial greenhouse to grow more than 60 types of vegetables and other plants. Since 2007, Dr. Resh and his colleagues have been intensely studying hydroponic greenhouse issues in temperate and tropical regions on the planet, including Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

Known as an urban horticulturist, Dr. Resh strongly believes that progressive farming can take place at a high level of productivity in even the most crowded cities in the world. He acts as a consultant on a wide range of commercial hydroponic projects and has received numerous accolades for his work, lauded for being an author and an amazing educator at the university level. Many of his students have gone on to excel in the hydroponics greenhouse farming industry all over the globe, and utilizing greenhouses made by Agra Tech, in many instances.

In mid-1999, Resh became Hydroponic Greenhouse Farm Manager for the first Hydroponic Farm associated with a tourist resort: the Cuisinart Resort & Spa, in Anguilla, B.W.I. in the northeastern Caribbean. The project, which uses multiple greenhouses manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc., the Cuisinart hydroponic farm is the only one in the world owned by a resort growing its own fresh salad crops and herbs exclusively for the resort.

We sat down recently with Dr. Resh to find out what he’s currently working on while maintaining and developing new crops at the Cuisinart hydroponics greenhouse farm.

Q: Hello doctor. What are some of the newest and most intriguing developments within the hydroponics greenhouse growing field that you’re working on?

DR:  It’s definitely an exciting time within this industry. Now the hydroponics culture is being applied under many extreme conditions that were never even remotely considered by anyone before. For example, hydroponics is being performed successfully at a space station under zero gravity using water culture systems, and implemented in the growing of fresh salad crops in Antarctica.

Q:  I know you’re working on the creation of hydroponic farms on rooftops of buildings in cities?

DR: Yes, it’s a concept that isn’t new. We created a rooftop farm in Taipei, Taiwan in the mid-1980s. We’re very excited about these rooftop farms, because they can be used in the middle of some of the busiest and most crowded municipalities in the world. This is one of my real passions right now, because it is green and can help city dwellers to get fresh produce that is local, regional and sustainable.

 Q: People of all backgrounds are entering this industry and encountering great success, in many cases. Why do you think it’s grown at an explosive rate especially during the last decade?

DR: Hydroponics is a very unique form of agriculture that can be applied either on a very simple basic level all the way to extremely sophisticated scenarios, from a backyard hobbyist to growing crops using hydroponics in a space station, for example. People from former in-ground farming backgrounds have embraced this form of farming and are purchasing commercial greenhouses from companies such as Agra Tech in California. The keys to this form of farming are climate control, quality crops and more production, as opposed to conventional types of farming. It has opened the industry to a whole new group of participants and has introduced more science into the art of hydroponic growing. Also, it’s a green approach–saving water, soil and electricity in many cases—so people gravitate toward it for these reasons too.

Q:  I understand that you’re using Agra Tech greenhouses in your Cuisinart hydroponic farm?

DR: Yes, we do use a greenhouse from Agra Tech, designed to withstand hurricanes, because that is an issue here in Anguilla. We grow cherry and beef tomatoes, radishes, basil, large plants, European cucumbers, red, yellow and orange peppers, all types of lettuce, micro greens, mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and everything we need for the hotels and restaurants at the resort. For more information and photos of this farm, you can visit my web site at: www.howardresh.com. The guests here appreciate the fresh vegetables and it’s been a very successful farm.

Q: What is the most innovative hydroponic greenhouse farming project you’re working on now?

DR: Farms like this one here in Anguilla will soon be sprouting up all over the world, I believe. I’m presently working on one in Mexico and another in Puerto Rico. Hopefully these two will be happening later this year.

Q: All kinds of people are getting into this business (retirees, military veterans, job changers, etc.) and making substantial profits. Why do you think so many former non-farmers are attracted to these hydroponic farms in greenhouse environments?

DR:  It appeals to a lot of retirees, especially if they’re semi-technical people, like engineers, because there is a lot of engineering involved in hydroponic farming. It turns them on and they respect the fact that they’re creating food, that’s a big aspect of it. If this new generation of farmers can find the proper markets to sell their crops, then that makes it more likely that they will succeed. It all comes down to where the farm is and what the markets in that area are willing to pay. This industry has become so much more sophisticated and it has changed a lot, due to the technology. Now it’s all about sustainable yielding, which means these new farmers want to generate their own electricity with solar cells and conserve energy more and more.

By Ed Attanasio