Getting the crops to continuously grow well is the biggest challenge during the extreme summer heat in Ontario. Transpar makes the greenhouse climate at Howard Huy Farms, Leamington, somewhat milder.
“We have to deal very cold winters and very hot summers,” says greenhouse director, Howard Huy. “The radiation in summer is very high reaching 1150 Watt/m2. In addition, the weather is very changeable. On a clear day, it can be 35o C, but it can just as easily be 18o C with the same high radiation. If you don’t do anything the result is the same: the plants call it quits.”
Huy has 9 ha of greenhouses, both plastic, and glass. He grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and aubergines in many different varieties to spread the risk. The products are sold via traders in Canada and the USA – the greenhouses are just 50 kilometers from the American border, close to Lake Erie.
In the past, he used ‘normal’ chalk and later a diffuse coating. “We decided to try Transpar just to see if it worked. We started with it last year and it worked so well we will definitely use it again. Our search for a good coating has come to an end,” he says.
Without any protection from the sun, the crops receive a shock in the summer heat: They wilt, become sunburnt and suffer quality problems such as blossom end rot. “The climate is much more uniform under Transpar. The temperature is often 3 to 5 degrees lower. We see better production and higher quality as well as better fruit size,” says Huy.
Transpar lets through the light that is essential for photosynthesis (PAR light), but blocks out the heat radiation (NIR, near infra-red) so the greenhouse and plants remain cooler. In addition, this coating makes the light diffuse so that the light penetrates deeper into the crop. “I find it difficult to judge if the latter is an advantage in our case,” he says. “But at least we can close the screen later. Therefore, we get more light in the greenhouse while the plants are able to use it. They stay active for longer. You also notice that the humidity stays much better at the right level.”
The company hires a specialized contractor who uses a helicopter to apply the coating; it is removed again in September. “It’s always a bit of a gamble as to when to apply it. This year it was cold and cloudy, so we could wait. But the end of April is always a safe time,” he says.
He hasn’t yet seen any disadvantages by using the coating. “On an overcast day you’d prefer to be able to remove it, but of course that’s not possible. But in general, we are very satisfied with Transpar. It does what it should. Therefore, we’ll be using this coating again next year. We are very pleased with it.”
Urban grower Karla Garcia is proud to announce the creation of her new company, Microgreens FLN based in Sonora, Mexico. Karla is a recent graduate with honors and a master’s degree in plant science from the University of Arizona. She is proud of her company’s commitment specializing in microgreens production using an indoor vertical farming strategy. Microgreens are an emerging class of specialty leafy greens and herbs. The crops are harvested when the cotyledons are fully developed and in some cases when the young plants have one true leaf.
Studies have shown that microgreens are an excellent source of vitamins (Sun et al., 2013; Xiao et al., 2012) that offer a variety of flavors, textures and colors. For this reason they are quickly gaining in popularity among foodies, salad lovers and top chefs around the world. Karla and Microgreens FLN are currently focused on producing a wide variety microgreens, including broccoli, mustard, coriander, beetroot and radish.
Creating the proper growing environment
Climate management is key in allowing Karla and her team to grow consistently and year round. Their specifically designed grow room enables them to maintain production throughout the year regardless of the outside temperature. The room is conditioned with fans and a cooling system to maintain seedlings at an average temperature of 21°C (70°F). Growracks are used to stack the crops and maximize the square foot production area.
Microgreens FLN is also working with Hort Americas to create the proper light intensity and light spectrum with ARIZE LED grow lights from GE in combination with white fluorescent lamps. This combination enables the company to provide at least a daily light integral DLI of 12 mol/m/d in order to maintain quality, predict growth and reduce energy costs.
For growers interested in trying to grow microgreens, Karla offers the following tips.
1. Ensure a clean area by disinfecting trays, seeds (in case they need it) and shelves.
2. Germinate seed by keeping trays in dark and humid conditions for the first three days.
3. After germination, place seedlings under grow lights for about two weeks and then harvest.
Microgreens FLN has two different harvesting techniques. Some customers request that their microgreens be delivered live, still growing in trays filled with substrate which provides a longer shelf life. Other customers prefer that the crop be harvested with sterilized scissors and packaged in a plastic clam shell. The delivered product is protected ready to be washed and served.
Microgreens FLN’s goal is simple: offer a fresh, healthy, environmentally-friendly product that is nutritious and flavorful.
“Take care of your body, take care of the planet, eat microgreens!” said Karla.
La agricultora urbana Karla Garcia está orgullosa de anunciar la creación de su nueva compañía, Microgreens FLN en Sonora, México. Karla (Estudiante graduada recientemente con honores y maestra en Ciencias de las Plantas por parte de la Universidad de Arizona) está orgullosa de su compañía la cual tiene el compromiso de especializarse en la producción de brotes usando como estrategia las granjas verticales en espacios cerrados. Para aquellos que desconocen el término brotes. Los brotes son una clase nueva de producto vegetal, el cual consiste en plántulas comestibles crecidas a partir de semillas de vegetales o hierbas, las cuales son cosechadas al término del desarrollo de hojas tiernas llamadas cotiledones.
Estudios han demostrado que los brotes son excelente fuente de vitaminas (Sun et al., 2013; Xiao et al., 2012), ofreciendo también una gama de colores, sabores y texturas. Razón por la cual este producto ha ganado interés rápidamente en consumidores de productos vegetales, amantes de ensaladas y top chefs alrededor del mundo. Karla y Microgreens FLN están enfocados actualmente en la producción de diferentes tipos de brotes como: Mostaza, brócoli, rábano, betabel y cilantro.
Creando el ambiente adequado para crecer
El control del ambiente es la pieza fundamental que permite a Karla y su equipo crecer brotes durante todo el año. Este equipo se ha dedicado a diseñar un cuarto de crecimiento para mantener su producción durante el año sin importar la temperatura exterior. La habitación está condicionada con abanicos y sistema de enfriamiento para mantener plántulas alrededor de 21 °C en promedio. Ellos usan un sistema de estantes para maximizar la producción por área. Microgreens FLN también mantiene colaboración con la empresa Hort Americas para crear el ambiente adecuado de luz utilizando las luces “Arize LED” de GE para crecimiento vegetal con combinación de focos fluorescentes. Esta combinación permite a Karla y su equipo mantener calidad, predecir crecimiento (Administrando al menos un DLI de 12 mol m-2 d-1 ) y a su vez de reducir costos energéticos.
Consejos para crecer
Para aquellos preguntándose cómo pueden hacer brotes en casa, Karla da los siguientes tips:
El primer paso para la producción de brotes es asegurar un área limpia, mediante desinfección de charolas, semillas (en caso de ser necesario) y repisas. Segundo, inducir germinación manteniendo las charolas en un lugar obscuro y húmedo. Después de la germinación, las plantúlas son colocadas bajo las luces de crecimiento por dos semanas y después son cosechadas.
Técnicas de cosecha
Microgreens FLN tiene dos distintos métodos de cosecha. Algunos consumidores demandan mantener sus brotes vivos, creciendo sobre el sustrato, lo cual genera una vida de anaquel mayor. Otros consumidores prefieren que Microgreens FLN coseche el producto, mediante corte con tijeras estériles, siendo empacados en recipientes de plástico. El producto entregado está entonces listo para ser lavado y consumido.
El objetivo de Karla y Microgreens FLN es simple, ofrecer un producto lleno de nutrientes y sabor que es fresco, saludable y amigable con el ambiente. Citando a Karla: “Cuida tu cuerpo, cuida tu planeta, consume Microgreens FLN!”
The Organic Produce Network and Nielsen report sales of organic fresh produce items approached $5 billion in 2017, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. Nearly 2 billion pounds of organic produce were sold in grocery stores last year, which is a 10 percent volume increase from 2016.
At U.S. retail stores, sales of organic fresh vegetables were $2.4 billion. Organic fresh fruit sales exceeded $1.6 billion. Sales of nearly $1 billion in organic value-added produce items brought total sales to $4.8 billion in 2017.
In 2017 organic packaged salad was again the leading organic fresh produce item, approaching $1 billion in sales. Packaged salad still accounts for one in five organic dollars.
Topping the sales in organic fruit were berry crops, which saw a 22 percent increase in volume sales. Organic berry sales, which include strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, topped $586 million in 2017.
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has released its Request for Applications (RFA) for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). OREI grants provide crucial support to the organic industry by funding research, education, and extension projects to improve and advance organic agriculture.
A total of $17.6 million is expected to be available for projects designated in OREI’s eight legislatively defined purposes (including the biological, physical and social sciences) in fiscal year (FY) 2018. All applications for consideration are to be submitted by March 1, 2018.
NIFA has identified nine priority areas for FY 2018, including a new priority focused specifically on policy. This new priority area is intended for projects that “identify marketing, policy, and other socioeconomic barriers to the expansion of organic agriculture in the United States and develop strategies to address them. Lobbying and advocacy activities do not fit under this priority.”
Leading Japanese indoor ag tech companies to visit the heart of U.S. agricultural research and biotechnology community to attend controlled environment networking event.
If you are involved with the vertical farming or indoor agriculture industries, then you should plan on attending Ag Tech Worlds Collide. Scheduled for Feb. 21, 2018, at North Carolina State University, this event will tackle the big questions currently being addressed in the vertical farming and indoor agriculture industries worldwide.
Urban Ag News and the Japan Plant Factory Association in coordination with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are pleased to announce this joint networking event with U.S.-based agricultural organizations and operations. Participating Japanese organizations/companies include: Japan Plant Factory Association, Keystone Technology Inc., Shinnippou 808 Factory, Nihon Advanced Agri Corp., ESPEC MIC Corp. and MIRAI.
Presentations focus on CEA impact
Key presentations at this controlled environment agriculture (CEA) event will be made by Dr. Chieri Kubota, professor of controlled environment agriculture at The Ohio State University, and Dr. Ricardo Hernandez, assistant professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at North Carolina State University.
Dr. Kubota’s presentation will discuss “Optimizing input and output in controlled environment agriculture.” Dr. Kubota received a PhD. in horticultural engineering and M.S. in horticultural science from Chiba University in Japan. She worked for six years as a faculty member at Chiba University, 16 years in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona and recently joined the faculty at The Ohio State University. At Chiba University Dr. Kubota studied under and worked with Dr. Toyoki Kozai, one of the most published and greatest minds in indoor agriculture.
Dr. Kubota’s research program focuses on the development of science-based CEA technologies. She has been very active in interdisciplinary collaborations contributing to horticultural crop production under controlled environments. Her research includes value-added CEA crop production, vegetable grafting, hydroponic strawberry production and CEA LED lighting applications.
Dr. Hernandez will discuss “Using vertical farming/indoor ag to support traditional farming. He is a faculty member in the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the area of horticultural energy at North Carolina State University. He has a B.S. in agronomy–crop consulting from New Mexico State University. His M.S. is in entomology–biological control from Texas A&M University. His PhD. is in plant sciences–plant physiology from the University of Arizona. He has a doctoral minor in entrepreneurship from the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, Eller School of Business and a minor in ag and biosystems engineering from the University of Arizona.
Dr. Hernandez’s research is focused on making CEA tools and techniques an integral part of sustainable agriculture and horticulture.
Event registration, location specifics
Ag Tech Worlds Collide will be held in the York Auditorium of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. Entry to this event is $25 and includes morning coffee service and lunch. Attendance is limited and the event will sell out quickly. Click here to register.
Ricardo Hernandez’s story is an inspirational journey of immigration, dedication, perseverance, and hard work that continues to shine light on unknown frontiers in horticulture. His story is exceptional.
Ricardo was born in the small town of Valle de Allende, Chihuahua, Mexico (2010 population of 4,185) and grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. His strong family was supportive of his dreams for higher education and encouraged him to pursue his passion.
Ricardo immigrated to the United States of America in 2005 and began his post-graduate education at New Mexico State University where he earned his B.S. degree in Agriculture. Texas A&M was his next destination where he earned a M.S. degree in Biological Control and Integrated Pest Management. Ricardo then joined Dr. Chieri Kubota’s program at the University of Arizona where he excelled at Plant Physiology and Controlled Environment Agriculture with minors in Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering and Entrepreneurship to become Dr. Ricardo Hernandez. This accomplishment is not an easy thing to do.
La historia de Ricardo Hernández es un viaje inspirador de inmigración, dedicación, perseverancia y trabajo duro que continúa iluminando las fronteras desconocidas de la horticultura. Su historia es excepcional.
Ricardo nació en el pequeño pueblo de Valle de Allende, Chihuahua, México (población 2010 de 4,185) y creció en Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Su fuerte familia apoyó sus sueños de una educación superior y lo animó a perseguir su pasión.
Ricardo emigró a los Estados Unidos de América en 2005 y comenzó su educación de posgrado en la Universidad Estatal de Nuevo México, donde obtuvo su B.S. grado en Agricultura. Texas A & M era su próximo destino donde obtuvo un M.S. Licenciatura en Control Biológico y Manejo Integrado de Plagas. Ricardo luego se unió al programa del Dr. Chieri Kubota en la Universidad de Arizona donde se destacó en Fisiología de Plantas y Agricultura Ambiental Controlada con menores en Agricultura e Ingeniería de Biosistemas y Emprendimiento para convertirse en el Dr. Ricardo Hernández. Este logro no es algo fácil de hacer.
Today, Dr. Ricardo Hernandez is now a U.S. citizen and assistant professor at North Carolina State University, one of the premier horticulture universities in the United States. Ricardo and his wife, Liliana, are teaching their two beautiful children, Samuel and Santiago, the same character traits that have enabled them to become a success in what they do and how they live their lives.
Ricardo’s humble journey is proof of the positive impact of immigration and that hard work and determination will lead to great rewards. We are fortunate that Ricardo took those first steps onto U.S. soil and into our profession.
In this “Voices of Horticulture” segment, Dr. Ricardo Hernandez explains some of his work at North Carolina State University on tomato and cucumber transplant response to light quality.
Hoy, el Dr. Ricardo Hernández es ahora ciudadano de los Estados Unidos y profesor asistente en la Universidad Estatal de Carolina del Norte, una de las principales universidades de horticultura de los Estados Unidos. Ricardo y su esposa, Liliana, están enseñando a sus dos hermosos hijos, Samuel y Santiago, los mismos rasgos de carácter que les han permitido convertirse en un éxito en lo que hacen y en cómo viven sus vidas.
El viaje humilde de Ricardo es una prueba del impacto positivo de la inmigración y de que el trabajo duro y la determinación llevarán a grandes recompensas. Tenemos la bendición de que Ricardo dio los primeros pasos en el suelo de los Estados Unidos y en nuestra profesión.
En este segmento de “Voces de horticultura”, el Dr. Ricardo Hernández explica parte de su trabajo en la Universidad Estatal de Carolina del Norte sobre la respuesta del trasplante de tomate y pepino a la calidad de la luz.
Hort Americas is excited to announce that it has been appointed the exclusive distributor of the Moleaer Inc. nanoBoost Nanobubble Generator. The generator delivers a supplementary source of dissolved oxygen that can significantly increase plant growth, improve size uniformity, reduce stress and prevent root diseases under extreme production conditions. It is ideally suited for horticultural applications including hydroponics, greenhouse irrigation and pond management.
Hort Americas installed the 50-gallons-per-minute (GPM) nanoBoost in in its hydroponics demonstration greenhouse in Dallas, Texas, to improve the production of leafy greens and culinary herbs during the summer months when warm summer temperatures make production more difficult.
“Our thought was that if we enhance and maintain higher dissolved oxygen levels, we should be able to improve crop health and ultimately improve yield,” said Chris Higgins, general manager at Hort Americas. “We observed dissolved oxygen levels of 29 parts per million in water temperatures of roughly 90ºF. Not only did we achieve our highest level of dissolved oxygen, but our crop yields increased between 20 and 50 percent.”
Improving nutrient uptake and plant transpiration
The self-cleaning nanoBoost Nanobubble generator, which has no moving parts, produces oxygen-enriched nanobubbles that efficiently oxygenate an entire body of water and provides a reserve of oxygen encapsulated within the bubbles.
The generator delivers billions of nanobubbles with 200-times the inter-facial surface area when compared to micro bubbles, making them far superior in transporting valuable oxygen to the plants’ root system. The surface of the nanobubbles is negatively charged, attracting nutrient salts and enhancing nutrient uptake. Nanobubbles also increase the mobility of water molecules, potentially improving plant transpiration.
The generator is available in various flow rates and is fully encased in a durable, NEMA4-rated weather-tolerant PVC shell. The unit is self-cleaning and features plug-and-play installation with no moving parts, thus ensuring long-lasting durability with minimal maintenance. The generator can be configured with an integrated pump or retrofitted with a customer’s existing pump to maximize energy efficiency.
New York City Council has passed legislation that requires the Department of City Planning to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan that addresses land use policy and other issues to promote the expansion of urban agriculture in the city. The department would be required to deliver this plan to the mayor and the speaker of the council by July 1, 2018.
The website aims to promote the expansion of urban agriculture in the city. The Department of City Planning, the Department of Small Business Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation would prepare content for the website. Agencies responsible for the construction and maintenance of the website would be required to issue a review of the website’s efficacy to the City Council by January 1, 2019.
Some of the issues that the urban agriculture plan would address include: cataloguing existing and potential urban agriculture spaces, classification and prioritization of urban agriculture uses, potential land use policies to promote the expansion of agricultural uses in the city, an analysis of those portions of the zoning resolution, building code, and fire code that merit reconsideration to promote urban agriculture, expanding the availability of healthy food in low-income neighborhoods, the integration of urban agriculture into the city’s conservation and resiliency plans, youth development and education with regard to local food production; direct and indirect job creation and impacts from urban agriculture production and the feasibility of creating an office of urban agriculture.
Moleaer announces commercial partnership with Hort Americas
Moleaer Inc., the leading manufacturer of industrial scale nanobubble generators, expands its innovative product line with the new nanoBoost Nanobubble Generator, ideally suited for applications such as hydroponics, pond management, and irrigation.
Like the existing Moleaer industrial XTB Nanobubble Generator™, the compact nanoBoost is a cost-effective and simple-to-install solution to deliver a supplementary source of oxygen-enriched nanobubbles that remain in suspension longer than conventional micro bubbles, efficiently oxygenating the entire body of water and providing a reserve of oxygen encapsulated within the bubbles.
One of the prime beneficiaries of the nanoBoost are commercial greenhouses. Moleaer’s nanoBoost has been proven to significantly increase plant growth, improve size uniformity, reduce stress and prevent root disease under the most extreme conditions. It delivers billions of nanobubbles with 200-times the inter-facial surface area when compared to micro bubbles, making them far superior in transporting valuable oxygen to a plant’s root system. In addition, the surface of the nanobubbles is negatively charged, attracting nutrient salts and enhancing nutrient uptake. Nanobubbles also increase the mobility of water molecules, potentially improving plant transpiration.
“We installed the 50-GPM nanoBoost in our Dallas-based hydroponics demonstration greenhouse in order to improve production of leafy greens and culinary herbs during the most difficult production season. Our thought was that if we enhance and maintained higher dissolved oxygen levels, we should be able to improve crop health and ultimately improve yield,” said Chris Higgins, General Manager of Hort Americas. “We observed DO levels of 29 ppm in water temperatures of roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only did we achieve our highest level of DO, but our crop yields increased between 20 and 50%.”
Moleaer is also pleased to announce that it is collaborating with Hort Americas to commercialize Moleaer’s nanobubble generators within the hydroponics industry. “We are excited to work with Chris and his team at Hort Americas to accelerate the commercialization of our nanobubble technology,” said Nick Dyner, CEO of Moleaer. “Hort Americas brings a wealth of knowledge in helping growers utilize best-in-class technology to optimize their growing operations, and we are confident that our nanobubble technology will provide growers a new solution to significantly increase yields within their existing facility.”
The nanoBoost is available in various flow rates and are fully encased in a durable, NEMA4-rated weather-tolerant PVC shell. The unit is self-cleaning and features plug-and-play installation with no moving parts, thus ensuring long-lasting durability with minimal maintenance. The generator can be configured with an integrated pump or retrofitted with a customer’s existing pump to maximize energy efficiency.
Focusing on community, innovation, and technology like A.I, The Philly Indoor-Ag Con brought together some of the leading experts in these areas to discuss Indoor Agriculture and how it is beginning to change the landscape of cities around the world. Philadelphia may be one of the most primed cities to welcome indoor and vertical farms alike with support from individuals like Mayor Jim Kenney who spoke at the event.
The conference was divided into 4 sessions covering CEA opportunity to develop local communities, how technology is changing the indoor farm business model, the coming impact of LED lighting, and AI in indoor ag. Each session had 3 speakers with a Q&A panel at the end of every session. Some thought provoking questions even had the panelists looking at things from new angles such as Mark Benoit of Bright Farms’ question: “What about thinking in terms of mouths fed too, instead of just jobs created?” I personally believe that “mouths fed” or “healthy calories consumed” will be a very important analytic in the future as automated approaches become more accessible due to advances in technology.
A common theme during the conference was the need to unite and standardize within this new industry. I agree with this central idea as we need to treat ourselves like any agriculture industry which uses standardization to decrease waste and increase profits. Eric Stein, one of the panelists, is looking to build a Center of Excellence for indoor agriculture to combat this issue. (If you are interested in participating in a brief survey to assist with the project please visit kennettindoorag.info)
One of the key messages from the conferences was the idea that technology is affecting business at a rapid rate, especially within CEA. Whether we are talking about the leaps and bounds made by LED every year or the tools of the grower becoming more of a key to success, Hort Americas is able to offer technical support that the emerging field will need to understand this ever changing source of light. As Xandar Yango of San’an Bio stated “LED will drive this industry.”
Esteban Macias of The Coalition for Sustainable Organics posed the question “How do you disrupt before you get disrupted?” I believe that the more we come together in a transparent manner for conferences and events like Philly Ag-con the more we can ensure that we will be the disrupters, not the disrupted. At Hort Americas we aim to not only have a high standard of quality and service in everything we do, but aim to supply the disruptive growers with products, tools, technology and supporting technical information they need to be innovative and maintain profitability; these products range from lighting to hydroponic substrates to traditional and organic fertilizer. Working together to address and fill needs, we should insure that they continue to grow well into the future.
The AVF Summit in Washington D.C was a great event to get a very eclectic group of people together that all want the same thing: to feed people and grow food sustainably as we move into a future that is rapidly growing and urbanizing.
Recent grads, farmers, politicians, and tech driven individuals all had a chance to discuss the future of vertical farming and urban farming including topics such as policy, certification, zoning, and the politics behind the future landscape of agriculture. The summit went into a lot of the bureaucracy surrounding urban and vertical farming and what it truly means to have a well thought out plan before you start growing.
The day-long summit was separated into multiple sessions with presenters from across the urban farming and tech industries, including but not limited to Sonny Ramaswamy (The National Institute of Food and Agriculture), Dr Bob Whitaker (Produce Marketing Association), and Roberta Anderson (Global G.A.P.). Most sessions were accompanied by a Q&A panel of industry professionals, each having a unique perspective on the specific topic of that presentation. Starting with a focus on policy, followed by Standardization & Certification, and finishing the day with the politics behind The Farm Bill, the summit painted a broad picture of what the future farming landscape may look like.
Much like the summit, the future of farming will be a combination of many different subjects and professions, with different skills, opinions and knowledge uniquely coming together to create the way we grow and eat. Hort Americas is proud to support this diverse industry. Working with every type of farm from conventional to vertical, our goal is to assist the industry with not only superior equipment and supplies, but with technical expertise and hands on experience.
For more information on the Association for Vertical Farming, click here.
Hort Americas is proud to announce that Victor Loaiza Mejia has joined our team as the Technical Sales Manager for California, Oregon and Washington. Victor studied agronomy in Mexico and did a year of study at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California. After graduating he worked for Koppert Mexico and for British American Tobacco. In 2005, Victor received his masters of science degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
His new found specialties in greenhouse horticulture and controlled environment agriculture then took him to the Netherlands where he worked three years for Royal Pride Holland as a grower before he came to the United States and joined Eurofresh Farms in Wilcox, Ariz. At Eurofresh he worked as a production manager and later took over the final implementation of Priva FS. Eurofresh Farms was bought by Nature Sweet in 2012.
In 2013, Victor became one of the first urban growers when he became the lead grower at Gotham Greens in Brooklyn, N.Y. At Gotham Greens Victor wore many hats and helped manage all operational aspects of the business. Victor left Gotham Greens after three years and moved back to California.
Victor has extensive experience in growing leafy greens and tomatoes under very varied production circumstances. He has worked with all types of software and has hands- on experience in organizing labor.
Please join us in welcoming Victor to Hort Americas.
CROPS: Local by Atta produces a variety of lettuces, basil, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, cilantro and microgreens. Products are sold at farmers markets, health food stores, grocery stores, restaurants and through a weekly basket program. The basket program is expected to increase sales as the company looks to expand with pick up at local businesses, municipal buildings and its new production facility.
TECHNOLOGY: GE Arize Lynk LED Growing System
Local by Atta was founded by Julian and Jesse Howatt. The two brothers, who grew up on a farm, have professional backgrounds in urban planning.
“Even though we grew up on a farm we have an interest in cities,” said Julian Howatt. “In 2012-2013 we reached a point in our careers that we wanted to start an urban farm together. I had been growing lettuce hydroponically in my apartment. We scaled it up to a shed in my brother’s backyard. In late 2013 we started a small-scale commercial farm and in March 2014 we began selling at a local farmers market.”
Julian said one of the reasons that they chose to do indoor hydroponics was the limitations of an outdoor urban farm.
“With an outdoor urban farm there are limitations with the land that is available and it is more difficult to do very intensive farming,” he said. “Also, our climate is not conducive to long growing seasons because of the short summers.
“An indoor farm provides a major competitive advantage for leafy greens. Except for the summer when there is a local supply, for most of the year the majority of leafy greens are coming from California and other parts of the West Coast. We saw the biggest potential starting to sell our products from September through June. It made more sense given the constraints of trying to produce high yields on a small land-based urban farm to go year-round with an indoor farm using a hydroponic production system.”
When the Howatts started growing hydroponically in their backyard shed they were looking to trial a couple of LED lights.
“We wanted a horticultural quality LED fixture and not just some random LED from a hydroponic store where we weren’t sure about the quality of the lights,” Julian said. “I googled horticultural LEDs and found Hort Americas online. I contacted Chris Higgins and I explained that we were setting up a small hydroponic production facility growing lettuce. I spoke to Chris for about an hour and talked about LEDs and lighting issues and ended up purchasing a couple of LEDs. I also read the Hort Americas case study article on Jeffrey Orkin at Greener Roots Farm in Nashville, Tenn. We eventually contacted Jeffrey because we were looking for other hydroponic farmers to exchange notes with and get some advice.”
In late 2013 the Howatts began growing in a commercial building renting 1,500 square feet of space.
“We started off with a nutrient film technique system with PVC channels,” Julian said. “We figured out very quickly that the plumbing for this type of system is much more complex resulting in more issues including leaks, flooding and clogging. We eventually switched over to a raft system.
“Our raft system was five levels high. It was 12 feet high about 24 feet long and 4 feet wide. We had two of these systems. These were our major production systems.”
When the Howatts moved into the building they had limited funds to set up the production facility.
“At the very beginning we started with more fluorescent than LED lights,” Julian said. “We didn’t have a lot of money and LEDs were more expensive. We weren’t willing to make the jump to just LEDs at that point.”
A fire in January 2016 destroyed the interior of the building including $10,000 worth of crops that had just been planted.
“We lost the entire farm to the fire and had to restart,” Julian said. “We had maxed out the space in the building and had already started considering options of expanding, relocating and scaling up our production before the fire occurred. We restarted the business in June 2016 and started selling greens again in September 2016.”
The company’s new location consists of 7,000 square feet with 1,000 square feet of that space used for office, storage and cold storage.
“Our set up is basically a big rectangular space,” Julian said. “We have the space for six large towers. We have the frames built and are currently using three of them. Each tower measures 16 feet tall, 50 feet long and 4½ feet wide and has six production levels. Each level has two ponds measuring 4- by 24-feet. As we expand we are filling in the frames with the ponds, rafts, plumbing, lighting and wiring. The water reservoir is at the bottom of the tower and the water is pumped up to each level and then drains down to the bottom.
“Of the nearly 6,000 square feet of production area we currently are only using half of that space. By next summer we expect to be using all of it. We have about 4,000 square feet under lights. That will double as we expand. It will be close to 8,000 square feet under lights once we are at full production.”
For the new facility the Howatts chose GE LEDs which they have been using since January 2017.
“After the fire we began looking at rebuilding and we only considered installing LEDs,” said Julian. “We didn’t even consider fluorescents. It was mostly because of power constraints. The fluorescent lamps were consuming too much power and generating too much heat. It wasn’t feasible to add more fluorescents.
“Because of the exchange rates we shopped around for price quotes and even though Hort Americas wasn’t the lowest, what we really liked was the customer service that the company offered and the industry knowledge that Chris had that most of the other lighting suppliers didn’t. The other suppliers we contacted had experience related to greenhouse production, but they weren’t as knowledgeable in regards to indoor farming.”
Julian said one of the advantages of using the GE LEDs is their energy efficiency.
“The biggest constraint for us besides money is the power constraint,” he said. “How much power do we have access to in the building can be an issue. It’s not as simple as just getting more power from the utility company.
“The GE LEDs are more efficient so we can get more light for the same amount of power, which is a nice bonus for us. Most of our crops grow better under the GE lights when they have the same light intensity or when we can give them more light because we can afford the power. Generally for most crops the yields are better and the quality of the product is better. This is especially true for red lettuces. We get better red pigmentation.”
CROPS: Creekside Nursery is primarily a woody ornamental grower that produces trees, shrubs, succulents, Knock Out roses, ornamental grasses, perennials and annual color. The company sells to landscapers, independent garden centers and rewholesalers in Texas and Oklahoma.
TECHNOLOGY: GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamp
Creekside Nursery has been in business since 1992.
“We grow 200-gallon trees all the way down to pots of annual bedding plants. I’m the manager for the annual color, perennials and tropicals,” said Troy Cox. “Woody ornamentals make up the majority of what we grow.”
Creekside Nursery has a total of about 500 acres of outdoor and indoor production. There are about 40 acres of protected production that includes some unheated winter protection for woody ornamentals. Cox manages about 25 acres of environmentally-controlled greenhouse space.
Creekside Nursery had customers that wanted long day plants ready for sale in February and March.
“Our salespeople came to us and said there were customers who wanted product ready in mid-February and early March,” Cox said. “These were plants that it just wasn’t possible to have ready at that time of year under normal growing conditions because they were long day plants. These included begonias, mandevilla and hibiscus. For mandevilla and hibiscus trying to have them in flower at this time you have to have a little help.
“We had a contract grow for an independent garden center that had an ad going into the newspaper in which they wanted to sell begonias on March 11. There were six different begonia varieties, including some new introductions. The plants were being grown in different size containers including 6-inch pots and hanging baskets.
In order to have the begonias ready for the March 11 ad, Creekside Nursery purchased 30 GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamps from Hort Americas. The lamps were installed in a 30- by 96-foot greenhouse.
“I started the begonias at their regular time as recommended by Ball Seed,” Cox said. “The lamps were set to come on between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. every night just like with mum lighting. The begonias flowered earlier and were in bloom and ready to sell by the March 11 ad date.
“I put the hibiscus and mandevilla in the same greenhouse just to trial them under the lights. All of the plants flowered faster than what they would have without the lights. We sold all of the plants that were lit with the GE lamps and the greenhouse is empty.”
Cox said using the GE LED flowering lamps he was able to have all three crops flower faster than if he hadn’t installed the lights.
“The begonias flowered first, followed by the hibiscus and the mandevilla last,” he said. “We were able to get the hibiscus blooming around April 1 with the lights on for about six weeks.”
Based on the success he had with the GE LED flowering lamps, Cox said Creekside Nursery is planning to purchase additional lamps to use on more crops.
“We expect that we will be doing the begonias again next year since it was such a success this year,” he said. “We are also going to try to flower the mandevillas so they’re ready for sale in March and April. Mandevilla is a major crop for us so we will be using the lights on them.
“We probably won’t use the lights on hibiscus. Customers have it in their minds that hibiscus don’t bloom until the summer. However, there are other crops that we want to try the lights on. For the perennials, we will use the lights on echinacea, rudbeckia and leucanthemum. We do small numbers of those crops, but we know the lights will work on them.”
It is important to conduct water and nutrient solution analyses on a regular basis to ensure hydroponic tomatoes are receiving the proper level of nutrients.
Making sure that hydroponically-grown tomatoes receive the proper nutrient levels requires testing water and nutrient solutions. Growers also need to confirm that irrigation equipment is delivering the correct amount of fertilizer. Nutrient levels should be monitored and adjusted according to the crop developmental stage, the season, light levels and tomato type.
“In applying fertilizer to a plant grown either in soil or in a soilless medium, the goal is to match the nutrient uptake of the crop as closely as possible to the amount provided as fertilizer” (Mary Peet, USDA, Division of Plant Systems-Production, 2005). There are many reasons to do so, but a very important reason is to prevent fertilizer runoff which is actually money runoff.” For growers with open irrigation system this will hurt the most. In a closed irrigation system, excess fertilizer is recovered and recycled after water treatment.
Water sample analysis
It’s very important to regularly conduct irrigation water and nutrient solution (water + fertilizers) analyses. Irrigation water quality from a well, dam or municipal system should be determined before implementing any type of fertilization plan. Important levels growers should know include: water electrical conductivity (EC), water pH, sodium (Na), chloride (Cl) if using a municipal water source, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sulfates (SO4). The preference is for low levels of all these elements. Water EC less than 0.5 millisiemens/centimeter (mS/cm) is a good level. If the water pH is high, a pretreatment can be done with sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid or citric acid. Optimum and safe pH levels are between 5 and 6.
Nutrient solution sampling should be conducted on a weekly or biweekly basis. Nutrient solution sampling should be taken from two sources:
1. Feed is the nutrient solution the irrigation system is pumping to the plants sampled at the dripper.
2. Drain is the leachate coming from the substrate. This is critical to a fertilization strategy.
The information obtained from the nutrient solution analysis helps to:
1. Verify the irrigation equipment is dosing the correct amount of fertilizer.
2. Verify the EC and pH of the nutrient solution are satisfactory levels.
3. Determine the amount of fertilizer by element being absorbed by the plants.
4. Determine the amount of fertilizer that needs to be added/subtracted from the nutrient solution.
It can be determined if the amount of irrigation is appropriate by looking at the drain EC. If the EC is too high, there may not be enough water being applied to the plants. If the EC is too low (lower than the feed EC) plants may be receiving too much water.
5. Verify if the amount of irrigation is appropriate by looking at the drain EC. If the EC is too high, there may not be enough water being applied to the plants. If the EC is too low (lower than the feed EC), plants may be receiving too much water.
There are many laboratories that perform this type of water and nutrient solution analysis. It is important to choose a lab where the staff has experience in hydroponics.
Two recommended laboratories are Groen Agro Control in the Netherlands and Perry Laboratory in Watsonville, Calif.
Recommended nutrient levels
In the photo of the Netafim crop management technology fertilizer dosing unit, the blue line on the left is the irrigation water (well water or municipal water with no fertilizer). This water is pumped to the mixing chamber where fertilizers are injected and the water becomes the nutrient solution (pink line on the right). The nutrient solution flows through EC and pH sensors to make sure that the target EC and pH are maintained.
Table 1 shows the nutrient levels by element or molecule recommended for tomato nutrient solutions measured at the drain. Elemental levels at the lower or higher margins are not necessarily bad. Maintaining the proper nutrient level is crop dependent.
Table 1 reflects the desired values obtained by a drain sample analysis. By constantly analyzing the nutrient solution, the target levels can be matched that best suits the crop.
Some tomato varieties are more susceptible to blossom end rot (BER) http://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/files/86509.pdf) than others. Check irrigation strategy and nitrate levels since high nitrates could be the cause of BER.
Keep daily irrigation measurements in a logbook (EC, pH and drain percentage). This is a daily task that should be performed early in the morning before the irrigation cycles start. See handheld EC/pH meters https://hortamericas.com/product-category/growing-supplies/meters/
Compare the manual EC/pH readings with the irrigation unit readings, they should match.
Keep K:Ca ratio close.
Calibrate pH and EC meters once a week.
Calibrate pH sensors on the irrigation unit at least once a month.
Keep the irrigation system clean and flush it periodically.
Clean fertilizer tanks every month to avoid fertilizer sedimentation.
Keep the pH of the micronutrient stock tank low (pH 4).
For more: Hort Americas, (469) 532-2383; https://hortamericas.com.
Here are some of the fertilizers Hort Americas offers:
Hort Americas is now offering OSRAM’s ZELION HL300 series of horticultural LED fixtures including controls and accessories. One of main advantages of the fixtures is they are controllable allowing users to adjust both the light intensity (light quantity) and the spectrum (light quality).
The ZELION HL300 Grow Light is a 100- to 600-watt dimmable and spectra-tunable LED horticulture light fixture. It is designed to meet the plant spectra needs for optimum photosynthesis and energy efficiency resulting in faster growth and increased yields.
The ZELION HL300 Sunlight is a 100- to 600-watt dimmable and spectra-tunable LED horticulture light fixture recommended for growth chamber applications where natural light is important or for supplemental lighting where color recognition is important, i.e., in a garden centers. To accommodate an increasing demand from a variety of users, including plant researchers, growers and garden centers, a spectrum was designed to closely match natural sunlight.
The ZELION HL300 Grow White is a 100- to 600-watt dimmable and spectra-tunable LED horticulture light fixture designed for horticulture applications. It is designed to meet the special lighting requirements of growers.
The Grow White has a combination of the ZELION Grow Light and Sunlight fixtures’ spectrum. This spectrum is used in growth chambers where a higher photosynthetic activity is required or by growers requiring supplemental light where color recognition and rapid, healthy growth are key factors.
All of the fixtures in the ZELION HL300 series emit light in the photosynthetically active region (400–700 nanometers) of the visible light spectrum. Their optimized design makes the lights easy to install and they provide the smallest shadow footprint compared to similar class LED fixtures. The lights are designed to withstand crop production environments.