Whole Foods Greenhouse, Big Expansions, Cash for Clunkers, Pepper Pest

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Annie White Stoffel Subscribe
Inside Grower

Live from Arizona
Greenhouse on Whole Foods
Conviron Acquires Argus
NatureSweet Buys EuroFresh
Major Greenhouse Expansions
Lumigrow Cash for Clunkers Pest Moth on Peppers

Live From Arizona

I’m happy to be reporting this week from greenhouse veggie central—the University of Arizona’s 2013 Greenhouse Crop Production and Engineering Design Short Course.

While much of the hort buzz this week is coming from Spring Trials in California, here in the desert of Tucson, the buzz is all about growing edible crops in controlled environments.

Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona welcomed a diverse crowd of growers, industry professionals, students, and yours truly to the week-long course. Dr. Giacomelli reminded us of the news headlines throughout the world that make the efforts of our industry so important. Now, more than ever, we’re needed to grow safer and more sustainable produce and in all climates of the world.

I’ll be here all week, soaking in the diversity of educational sessions and visiting greenhouses at the University of Arizona as well as other commercial growers in the area. Expect a full report from my travels in the next Inside Grower.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

You may have noticed that we’ve added a new feature to some of our news stories to give you the opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, enthusiasm, and yes, even your gripes. We invite you to click on the "Join the conversation" link and comment away. Your comments will then be viewable by other readers. As always, you’re welcome to share your comments directly with me via email, but this new feature will hopefully inspire some thoughtful dialogue among all you experienced and insightful folks.

Gotham Greens to Grow on Whole Foods Market

Big news this week from NYC’s Gotham Greens. The company is partnering with Whole Foods Market to build the nation’s first commercial-scale greenhouse farm integrated within a retail grocery space.

The young yet experienced Brooklyn-based rooftop greenhouse grower is constructing a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on the roof of the forthcoming Whole Foods Market store in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

The greenhouse will be built by Nexus Greenhouse Systems and will be fully operational when the store opens in this fall.

Gotham Greens will grow premium quality, pesticide-free produce year-round in the greenhouse for Whole Foods Market Gowanus, as well as other Whole Foods Market locations throughout New York City.

Gotham Greens was approached by Whole Foods Market for this project, noting Gotham’s reputation in the industry as a leader in urban and rooftop greenhouses. The company has been growing high quality hydroponic produce since 2011 at its first rooftop greenhouse farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

"We’re particularly excited to partner with a local organization with roots right here in Brooklyn and a mission in line with our own, in that we both care deeply about providing local, fresh and sustainably produced food," said Christina Minardi, Whole Foods Market northeast regional president.

Gotham Greens Co-Founder Viraj Puri says their greenhouse will provide Whole Foods Market shoppers with access to the freshest, most delicious leafy greens, herbs and tomatoes, grown year-round right above the store’s produce department. "We’re thrilled with this partnership and to be part of the growing national movement of farmers and food producers committed to providing consumers with high quality, responsibly produced food," adds Viraj.

Conviron Acquires Argus

Two familiar names in our industry are integrating their businesses. Controlled Environments Ltd. (Conviron) has announced the acquisition of Argus Control Systems Ltd.

The acquisition brings together Conviron, designer and manufacturer of plant growth chambers for controlled environments agriculture, with Argus, a North American leader in advanced automated control systems for greenhouses and other horticultural applications.

The companies say the integration will provide researchers and growers with more flexibility and increasingly powerful tools. They hope the integration will drive growth for both organizations in the plant science and biotechnology sectors.

Conviron says that the acquisition of Argus not only provides their company with new technology for its controlled environments, but it also provides the Winnipeg-based company with access to the commercial horticulture industry where they believe the opportunity for growth is significant.

Under the new ownership structure, Argus will function as an independent business unit, maintaining its distinct brand and continuing operations at its current location in White Rock, British Columbia.

Alec and Marlene Mackenzie, founders of Argus, will continue in advisory roles to ensure a smooth transition for Argus employees and clients. "We’ve known Conviron for many years and we recognized long ago a similar passion and dedication to serving our clients," said Mackenzie. "Our business values are similar and our clients overlap. Both Argus and Conviron clients will benefit from the synergies of this deal."

Sale of EuroFresh Farms to NatureSweet Approved

Greenhouse giant, EuroFresh Farms, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Tuscon’s Federal Bankruptcy Court back on January 27. The Willcox, Arizona-based company has a total of 318 acres of greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers in Willcox and Snowflake, Arizona, and employs about 1,100 workers.

San Antonio, Texas-based NatureSweet Ltd., announced their intent to purchase EuroFresh Farms and all its assets one day after the bankruptcy documents were filed. NatureSweet is headquarted in the U.S., but grows their tomatoes in greenhouses in central Mexico.

NatureSweet announced last week that the United States Bankruptcy Court in Arizona approved the sale of substantially all of the assets of EuroFresh Farms to NatureSweet’s subsidiary, Zona Acquisition Company, LLC.

The sale was done though an asset auction process known as a 363 sale, which allows a company filing for bankruptcy to market its assets to bidders. They expect the transaction to be completed in April.

According to the bankruptcy petition, EuroFresh Farms had debts between $50 million and $100 million and assets between $10 million and $50 million. The court documents list the sale price at $51.1 million.

Bryant Ambelang, chief executive officer and president of NatureSweet, said in a January release, "Bringing EuroFresh products into the NatureSweet family provides us with new product offerings and U.S. growing facilities that we are confident will provide significant value to our customers."

Major Greenhouse Expansions Span the U.S.

Windset Farms Building Phases 3 and 4

Despite what many consider a tough year for U.S. tomato growers, Windset Farms is moving forward with Phases 3 and 4 of their Santa Maria, California, greenhouse facility.

"The tomato industry had a tough year last year. It was a very challenging year for everybody," Windset Farms President Steven Newell told the Santa Maria Times, referring to the U.S. tomato industry’s battle with Mexican growers over what they consider unfair pricing and labeling practices.

Newell said that while Windset Farms’ California growing operation "didn’t defy gravity," it did well enough to move forward with the planned expansions.

Windset’s expansion will double the size of the current greenhouse footprint in Santa Maria, boosting it to 128 acres. That’s equivalent to about 90 football fields under glass!

BrightFarms Plans Kansas City Greenhouse

New York City-based BrightFarms, Inc. announced plans to build a 100,000 sq. ft. greenhouse farm in Kansas City, Missouri. BrightFarms, Inc. will build the high-tech hydroponic greenhouse in partnership with the Port Authority of Kansas City, Missouri. They plan to grow up to 1 million pounds of local produce per year, including tomatoes, herbs and lettuces. The company estimates this will meet the fresh vegetable consumption needs of up to 5,000 Kansas City residents.

BrightFarms’ first greenhouse farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is up and running and recently began delivering lettuces and greens to all McCaffrey’s Market locations and two Superfresh stores in Philadelphia. BrightFarms’ long-term Produce Purchase Agreement (PPA) with McCaffrey’s was the first of its kind in the grocery industry.

BrightFarms has already announced plans for additional greenhouses in Brooklyn, New York, St. Paul, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and St. Louis, Missouri.

JemD expands in VA

JemD Farms has announced plans to build a large greenhouse growing and packing facility in Pulaski County, Virginia. This will be the company’s first growing facility in the U.S., adding to its 400 acres of production in Canada and Mexico.

The company said that Dublin, Virginia, offers good climatic conditions for the greenhouse operation and a central location for convenient access to east coast markets.

Once complete, the three year, $30 million project will boast 50 acres of greenhouse grown tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and specialty organic lines of produce. The produce will be harvested and marketed under the Red Sun label.

LumiGrow Offers "Cash for Clunkers"

LumiGrow, Inc., a provider of horticultural lighting, has kicked off a new program they’re calling "Cash for Clunkers". Through the new program, they’re offering commercial growers a $150 cash rebate for each high intensity discharge (HID) greenhouse light fixture they replace with a LumiGrow LED luminaire.

LumiGrow says that the cash rebate program presents a win-win scenario for growers and the environment. Growers gain a financial incentive for recycling HID greenhouse lights in working order or not. Fixtures are sent to a recycling facility certified to safely dispose of the hazardous materials found in HID lighting and fixture scrap metal is recycled.

To learn more about LumiGrow’s Cash for Clunkers program, click HERE.

Invasive Moths Discovered in Pepper Greenhouses

Invasive diamondback moths, known as a "super pest" because it’s so difficult to control, was recently discovered in two bell pepper greenhouses in British Columbia, Canada.

The Vancouver Sun reported on this recent and peculiar outbreak. Rana Sarfraz, an expert in diamondback moths, told the newspaper that he discovered the invasive diamondback moths in two commercial greenhouses in Abbotsford. Sarfraz described the infestation as a serious concern because it has the potential to threaten British Columbia’s pepper production, which is valued at about $75 million annually.

The infestation is also troubling to Sarfraz because this is the first time the pest has been seen on peppers. He says he doesn't understand how the moths have adapted to feed on peppers.

In the past, diamondback moths have been found feeding on outdoor crucifer crops in British Columbia, including canola, mustard, radish, cabbage and broccoli.

Linda Delli Santi, executive director of the B.C. Greenhouse Growers Association told The Vancouver Sun that her staff talked to Sarfraz and will begin researching the diamondback moth.

Click HERE to read the full article in The Vanouver Sun.

That's all for this week. As always, feel free to email me at awhite@ballpublishing.com with comments, questions, news and views.

Until next time,

Annie White
Inside Grower

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