By using commercial greenhouses made by Agra Tech, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of greenhouses, McLellan/Tiasuco America grows incredible orchids completely indoor. In 2000, Rod McLellan’s botanical division was purchased by the Taiwan Sugar Company (Taisuco) one of the largest orchid growers on the planet. The purchase gave Taisuco a more prominent position in North America when it bought this long-standing family farm with two large growing operations in California and Texas.
McLellan/Tiasuco America’s main nursery is located in Aromas, CA, in the agriculturally rich Pajaro Valley. Most of its orchids are sold to flower stores and farmer’s markets and also operates a retail store operating in the San Francisco Flower Mart.
By exchanging research, development and resources with its counterparts, McLellan/Tiasuco America has earned a worldwide reputation for growing high-quality orchid species and innovative varieties that are grown, selected, packaged and shipped to its customers around the country. While growing unique, award-winning orchids in its greenhouses for year-round delivery, the company also grows Taisuco’s spiral eucalyptus varieties in its surrounding fields, which are harvested and shipped throughout the world year-round.
Richard Munoz is the company’s operations manager, which means he supervises a staff of more than 100 people and manages the nursery in Aromas, CA. Munoz, 57, enjoys his job, because the technology is rapidly changing and each day provides new challenges, he said. “The driving force in this industry is the technology and it has changed considerably within the last 10 years. We’ve been adapting to the new innovations as they emerge, because we want to use all of the newest tools and systems out there, if possible, to grow the finest and healthiest orchids in the world.”
McLellan/Tiasuco America cultivates hardy varieties that can stand up to the challenges of retail distribution and a broad range of home environments. “The seedlings are shipped here from Tiasuco in Taiwan, so they’re going to be on a ship for 18-20 days,” Munoz said. “When we get them, some of them are distressed, so we have techniques we’ve developed to get them healthy again.”
The orchid varieties offered by the company range from the most popular: Phalaenopsis, Oncidium and Miltonia to the exotic: Paphiopedilum, Cattleyas and other seasonal varieties. “We get new varieties from Taiwan every year, maybe 3-4 annually,” Munoz explained. “We have the classic whites and various shades of pinks, yellows and oranges and striped or spotted patterns in all colors, probably more than a dozen in all.”
Between the two farms, McLellan/Tiasuco America grows 1.3 million orchids annually with year round availability. The standard pot sizes include 3”, 4” and 6” with a variety of flower sizes from mini to large and customers can buy them either fully bloomed or in the bud stage, based on their preferences and/or requirements.
Munoz has been working closely with Adam Pound, his sales rep at Agra Tech, Inc. for several years now and greatly values the relationship for several reasons, he said. “Agra Tech has been building greenhouses with a long time and Adam is a great source of knowledge for us. He is always looking for new great solutions for us to grow better orchids and each one has worked well. In Aromas, we have a total of 230,000 square feet of greenhouses that we purchased from Agra Tech and they always work tremendously well.”
Munoz loves the control that the Agra Tech greenhouses provide for McLellan/Tiasuco America. “We can grow the orchids more quickly and turn them faster,” he said. “We’re in the process of making everything computerized and right now Adam has helped us to changeover 70% of our systems. Eventually, we’ll be 100% computer-controlled, because we’re constantly upgrading and trying to be better. That’s why we’re so happy to be working with Agra Tech, because we get access to both their products and their expertise.”
Article by Edmund Attanasio
Additional Notes: The greenhouses were built in the 80’s and feature one of Agra Tech’s first Positive Pressure installations which is still providing insect exclusion and outstanding cooling even after 30 years. The customer stated that he gets a 5 to 7 degree temperature differential over 300’, unheard of in negative pressure greenhouses.