Tag Archives: Research Greenhouse

Agra Tech and Lundberg Family Farms Create a One-of-a-Kind Greenhouse

Headhouse with Agra Tech greenhouse behind

By Ed Attanasio
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If you’ve ever purchased any organic rice or rice products at your local grocery store, there’s a very good chance that they were grown at Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale, CA. Today, Lundberg Family Farms is the United States’ leading producer of organic rice and rice products as third and fourth generation Lundberg family members are still carrying on the family heritage by using eco-positive farming methods to produce nutritious and healthy rice products while improving and protecting the environment for more generations to come. “Leave the land better than you found it,” Albert Lundberg told his sons, something they still believe and practice to this day at Lundberg Family Farms.

Eighty years ago, Albert and Frances Lundberg left their home in Nebraska to start a rice farm in Northern California’s fertile Sacramento Valley with their four sons. In the 1960’s, Eldon, Wendell, Harlan and Homer Lundberg saw the need to sell their products directly to the public, since it was being grown so differently from conventional rice. This gave consumers a choice in the rice they purchased and began the Lundberg Family Farms brand which now includes over 200 value-added products utilizing 17 different types of specialty rice, quinoa, beans and other whole grains.

Vice-President of Administration Jessica Lundberg first heard about Agra Tech back in 2013, when Lundberg Family Farms started thinking about replacing their greenhouses that had been serving them for many years. “We have a research nursery where we focus on our seed production, doing variety improvement and a wide range of organic material testing,” she said. “We were doing this work in two older greenhouses and started talking about replacing them, because the complexity of the work we were doing was increasing. We needed to upgrade, so we started looking around at the different types of greenhouses out there at places like UC Davis and Chico State University. In addition, we talked to other greenhouse growers, including the people at the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (aka The Rice Experiment Station), which is right up the road from us in Biggs, CA. They had just completed a greenhouse, so we visited them to take a look and we were pretty impressed by it.  The Foundation introduced us to Jim Bergantz at Agra Tech.”

Research inside Lundberg’s greenhouse. “Fully integrated & automated controls for all operational aspects; fan speeds, lighting, cooling system, shade curtains and includes a PC based program interface that provides for monitoring system performance and set up.”

After the initial introductions, the process of planning and laying out the greenhouse was the next step. “We had a list of needs and wants and Jim at Agra Tech got us a bid, so that we could get an idea of pricing,” Lundberg said. “Then, we put it into our business plan and it took about a full year until we were ready to take down the old greenhouses and apply for permits. We wanted something that was unconventional and Jim Bergantz’s advice was instrumental in making it happen for us.”

By using his extensive knowledge and experience in the commercial greenhouse industry, Jim Bergantz was able to help Lundberg Family Farms in several areas that saved them time and capital. “We were able to re-purpose a lot of our lighting, because it was only a year old”.

“Since we are growing predominantly rice in the greenhouse, we had to figure out the bench layout to hold fiberglass tanks of water; the lighting requirements; the type of screen material we needed for insect exclusion; the heating and cooling operations in the greenhouse and how we could create a dual purpose “wet room” from the space of the cooling pad room so that we could use it to do pre-planting preparations to soak our experimental and headrow seed lines in water,” Lundberg explained.

The actual construction for the Agra Tech 36’ x 96’ x 12’ Solar Light greenhouse was completed in May of 2016, which means that the farm has been using the greenhouse for more than a year now with great results, according to Manager of Engineering and Continuous Improvement Bradley Thomson, who played a pivotal role in the design and implementation of the greenhouse project at Lundberg Family Farms.

“The team at Agra Tech met the challenge and did a great job from start to finish,” Thomson said. “The completed house system is state of the art with fully integrated & automated controls for all operational aspects; fan speeds, lighting, cooling system, shade curtains and includes a PC based program interface that provides for monitoring system performance and set up. When small build issues arose, as they will, the Agra team stepped up and responded quickly to resolve the challenge. The new greenhouse represents a significant jump forward for Lundberg Family Farms not only in the overall system but also in the Head House space that was custom created for our own team. Agra Tech and Ag-Con worked in conjunction with our General Contractor to tie in a custom head house built by our general with a state of the art Green House, they did an excellent job.

The Agra Tech research greenhouse

View of the beautiful facility area from the front.

Written by Ed Attanasio
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Agra Tech and UC Davis Create Tall Greenhouse Research

Solar Light 50 research greenhouse

Solar Light 50 research greenhouse

With a 16-foot eave height greenhouse manufactured by Agra Tech, UC Davis is able to perform research and development on various types of crops. As a part of the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis in Davis, CA, the College of Agriculture and Environmental Services (CA&ES) maintains a total of 162 greenhouses, and one of their newest one is a custom-made 4,500 square-foot greenhouse made by Agra Tech.

Garry Pearson, CA&ES Lead Greenhouse Manager described the project and its main goal. “We call it the ‘Tall greenhouse’ project among ourselves, because basically it is a greenhouse where a wide variety of crops that can be grown.

Creating and controlling the ideal climate for the “Tall Greenhouse” was a tall order, Pearson said, but by working with Agra Tech, it was achieved. “Our goal was to create a greenhouse environment that has the same exact climate and conditions you’d find in the tropical zones of the world. We’re in a Mediterranean climate here in northern California, so we obviously need a greenhouse to control the marriage between the greenhouse, the climate and the plants.

“By working with Adam and Ray Pound at Agra Tech and Ag-Con Construction respectively, we now have a greenhouse that allows UC Davis to grow crops that are 24 feet tall in a microclimate that features high humidity, which is essential for the crops being studied. The Pounds at Agra Tech were able to meet our requirements in a very cost-effective way and they were involved in every aspect of the design and manufacturing of our ‘Tall Greenhouse.’ It’s a 4,500 square foot greenhouse and it’s working perfectly. It’s easy to work with Agra Tech, because they have a lot of experience and knowledge and they’re not afraid to take on new challenges as well.”

Written by Ed Attanasio

Inside Lean-to

Inside screened Lean-to

Solar Light 50 with insect exclusion

Solar Light 50 with insect exclusion lean-to

 

Major Worldwide Seed Manufacturer Values Its Agra Tech Greenhouses

Solar Light Processing Area

Solar Light Processing Area

In 2008, two of the world’s leading seed companies merged when Harris Moran Seed Company (a U.S. entity) and Clause Vegetable Seeds, (a French company) joined forces to become a major player in the development and production of vegetable seeds worldwide. Now called HM.CLAUSE, this international company specializes in the breeding, production and commercialization of vegetable seeds in a wide range of varieties for professional growers.

Dedicated exclusively to producing vegetable seeds, HM.CLAUSE is now one of the top five vegetable seed entities in the world. With more than 2,000 varieties within more than 20 vegetable crops, HM.CLAUSE provides cutting-edge solutions to growers from India to Indiana. By establishing business relationships with 14 commercial subsidiaries and local sales networks, HM.CLAUSE features varieties that are available in more than 100 countries.

Solar Light processing area

Solar Light processing area

The company has a strong presence in California, with facilities in Modesto, where its quality control department and seed processing operation is located; three locations in Davis, including a Research and Breeding facility and satellite facilities in Nampa, Idaho; Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; Olathe, Colorado; and Immokalee, Florida. HM.CLAUSE also has subsidiaries in France, Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and more, making them a world-class worldwide operation.

Focusing on tomato, melon, pepper, cauliflower and other brassicas, summer squash, sweet corn and fennel seeds, HM.CLAUSE currently utilizes one head House and three greenhouses built and designed by Agra Tech, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses, accessories and greenhouse growing systems and located in Pittsburg, CA.

Each of HM.CLAUSE’s three Agra Tech greenhouses is approximately 3,450 square ft. in size and contains 2,160 square ft. of usable bench space.

Mehul Gandhi is the company’s Greenhouse Facility Supervisor and oversees all greenhouse-related tasks at HM.CLAUSE’s Modesto location. He has held this position since the greenhouse became operational and oversees the efforts of two technicians and contract personnel, when needed. Previously, Gandhi held the position of Germination Lab Supervisor at H.M.CLAUSE and has been with the company for approximately seven years.

There were a few minor bumps when the Agra Tech greenhouses were installed roughly three years ago at HM.CLAUSE’s Modesto facility, but any issues were solved post haste, thanks by exemplary customer service offered by Agra Tech.

“We had some minor issues with the Agra Tech greenhouses initially, but our salesman Ray Pound with AG Con, the company that installs Agra Tech greenhouses, stepped up and solved them rather quickly,” Gandhi said. “When he discovered a problem, he was here within days and took care of everything. We also work with Agra Tech’s Jim Bergantz, who has been a source of information and a great help.”

Agra Tech Benches inside Solar Light commercial Greenhouse

Agra Tech Benches inside Solar Light Greenhouse

“The greenhouses have performed well,” Gandhi explained. “There are three rolling benches in each greenhouse with hot water tubing heating system on the benches. We also have various stages of cooling with the final stage being the automatic shade curtain. This allows us to produce very uniform plants throughout the year.”

 

Agra Tech helped Gandhi and his crew to find the optimum location for their head house and greenhouses, he said. “We had to figure out how much space we needed and where the Agra Tech greenhouses and head house were to be situated, because we don’t have a huge parcel of land here. But, with Agra Tech’s assistance, we were able to successfully design and set up the buildings and in the summer of 2011, our new quality control lab was operational.”

“All four buildings are connected, which is ideal for what we’re doing,” Gandhi explained. “They allowed us to expand our usable transplant testing. We’ve also been able to expand our vigor and stress testing to ensure that the seed lots chosen for sales can withstand a wide range of conditions.”

Controlled Environmental Chamber for germination

Controlled Environmental Chamber for germination

“The head house is where we do all the planting,” Gandhi said. “It has three separate environmentally controlled chambers and we place all of our usable transplants there first, to make sure there’s uniformity and to make sure they are initially grown under the same conditions before we transfer them into one of the greenhouses. Initial germination also takes place in these controlled environment chambers.”

To prevent insects from entering HM.CLAUSE’s head house or greenhouses, Gandhi called upon the expertise of Agra Tech to make it happen. “They helped us to cover all our breezeways with insect screens,” Gandhi said. “Now, not one single insect can get into any of our greenhouses, which is essential. We’re busy year-round, so this is very important.”

Article by Ed Attanasio