First Wheelchair Accessible Farm at Local Bronx Public School

Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Green Bronx Machine to Launch First Wheelchair Accessible Farm at Local Bronx Public School

Press Release – NEW YORK – Green Bronx Machine (GBM), a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to helping students live happier and healthier lives, is partnering with Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire) to launch the first wheelchair accessible farm and teaching kitchen in America at P.S. 721x, a District 75 school in the Bronx dedicated to educating students living with disabilities.

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Hort Americas looks to be a connector of products and knowledge for the horticulture industry

Whether growers are producing vegetables, ornamentals or other hydroponic crops, Hort Americas is working to provide its customers with the products and knowledge they need to be successful.

When Hort Americas in Bedford, Texas, started operating as a wholesale horticulture distributor in March 2009, the company had no existing customer base.

Continue reading Hort Americas looks to be a connector of products and knowledge for the horticulture industry


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William
Butler Yeats

What led you to where you are today?  Chances are someone or something, somewhere,
influenced you to make a series of life choices that have led you to where you
are today.  For some, it is a high school
class that inspires them to pursue their career.  For me it was an after school job during high
school.  One persons’ desire to grow
tomatoes during the winter in North Central Kansas ultimately led me to pursue
a PhD in plant science. 

At some point in your professional career you’ll most
likely be asked to speak in front of an audience.  Speaking engagements for industry
professionals are generally reserved for industry trade shows and
conferences.  Sometimes, we’re invited to
speak to a group of college students during what is formally known as “seminar”.  Informally, it is known as nap-time! 

What if you could make a potentially long-lasting
impression to a younger demographic?  One
where the majority of the audience chooses a high tech career during their
middle or high school years?  And you
could do this without leaving your office. 
Enter, Nepris…

What is Nepris?  Technically, Nepris is “an online platform
that makes it easier for teachers to connect with industry experts to bring the
real world to the classroom.”  According
to their website “57% of boys and 68% of girls who chose a high tech career say
they were inspired by one person, or one event, or one class during the middle
or high school years (STEM Perceptions study by Microsoft).  What is STEM? STEM is an acronym for Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. 
You can learn more about STEM, here.

Basically, the Nepris platform allows educators to post a
curriculum topic to the Nepris platform and then assists by finding an industry
expert to show and tell how that topic is applied in practice.  Industry experts must also create an
account.  The process is simple and there
are plenty of tools to help you build your presentation framework.  I should also stress that the team at Nepris
is VERY helpful.

In January, Hort Americas (yours truly) was given the
opportunity to engage high school students of an advanced biotechnology class in
TX.  The students are working on individual
class projects and many of them chose the topic of hydroponics.  Their teacher knew little about the subject
of hydroponics and elected to utilize Nepris to help the students learn from an
industry expert. The presentation title (selected by the teacher) was “Growing
Crops with Hydroponics”.  The process was
very simple.  I created my online
account, found the topic, read the description and signed up as the
speaker.  There were a few dates and
times to choose from, so I selected the one that best fit my busy
schedule.  The Nepris team reached out to
me immediately and we set aside 30 minutes to go over the process and content
of the presentation and that was it until the day of the presentation.  When the day of the presentation arrived, I
logged into my account 10 minutes early, made introductions and gave the
presentation.  This particular class
repeats, so students can remain enrolled in the class over multiple semesters.
This means that some of the experiments may continue over a longer period of
time.  I offered my knowledge and
services to the class, so there is the potential of creating a long-lasting
impact on some of the students.  Who
knows, perhaps one of them will become one of our industry’s next leaders.  You never know. 

So what’s the point? 
OUTREACH!  Participating in this
platform allows us to tell our story to more people.  It also allows us to explain the breadth of
our industry.  Think about it, greenhouse
agriculture has it all. Not only does it include STEM, but it also includes
business, sales, marketing, architecture, nutrition, culinary arts and so
on.  If you’re interested please check
out the Nepris website and
create an account.  Then find a
presentation, tell students how cool your job is and expose them to the “real

Article written by Hort America’s Technical manager, Dr. Johann Buck. 

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e-GRO website becoming major information resource

U.S. university floriculture professors and extension
specialists have collaborated to bring the floriculture industry an extensive
and thorough information resource.

By David Kuack

If you aren’t familiar with the e-GRO website,
it is one anyone involved in floriculture should check out. How good is the
website? This summer the American Society for Horticultural Science presented
the website’s developers with its Extension Educational Materials Award.

The American Society for Horticultural Science presented
the developers of the e-GRO website with its Extension
 Educational Materials Award

The two-year-old e-GRO: Electronic Grower Resources
Online website was the brainchild of Brian Krug, extension greenhouse and
horticulture specialist at University of New Hampshire, Brian Whipker, extension
floriculture specialist at North Carolina State University, Roberto Lopez,
floriculture extension specialist at Purdue University, and Nora Catlin, floriculture
specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

“A few years ago Brian Whipker, Roberto Lopez and I were
travelling together,” said Brian Krug. “We were discussing how difficult it was
to prepare an extension newsletter. Roberto had the idea of doing a newsletter
collectively. We invited Nora Catlin, who is a plant pathologist, to join us in
creating the e-GRO Alert newsletter. The newsletter is funded by the American Floral Endowment.

“Rather than doing a traditional monthly or quarterly
newsletter we decided to do a seasonal weekly newsletter based on what we saw
going on in commercial greenhouses. The primary focus is what is happening in
greenhouses during the spring season beginning at the end of January through
May. Sometimes we prepare more than one newsletter during the week depending on
the issues that are occurring in commercial greenhouses.”

Providing growers
a “heads up”

Krug said that although there is a tentative schedule as
to what is going to be written about during a specific week, the topic and
author can change depending on what growers may be dealing with. The
newsletters cover a variety of grower-related issues including disease and pest
management and environmental, physiological and nutritional disorders being
observed in commercial greenhouses.

“At the end of January we may schedule an article on
plant growth regulators written by Brian Whipker, but that will depend on what
he has seen occurring in growers’ greenhouses,” Krug said. “Ours is a very
reactionary industry. With the Alert newsletter we are trying to give the
growers a heads up as to something that they might already have in their
greenhouses or may be something that is coming their way.”

During the second year the team of specialists expanded
to include Cornell University entomologist Dan Gilrein, University of Georgia
floriculture professor Paul Thomas and Virginia Tech horticulture professor and
Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist for greenhouse crops Joyce Latimer.
Joining the group in 2014 will be Kristin Getter, who is the floriculture
outreach specialist at Michigan State University.

“The bulk of the e-GRO Alert subscribers are from the
authors’ respective states,” Krug said. “We have subscribers in 48 states and
over a dozen different countries.”

greenhouse basics

Another part of the website is e-GRO University. This
section was developed by Krug, Whipker, Lopez, Kansas State University
floriculture professor Kim Williams, Kansas State ornamental and horticultural entomologist
Ray Cloyd and Cornell University senior extension associate and plant
pathologist Margery Daughtrey. e-GRO University is the second phase of the
website which includes over 60 videos that cover the basics of greenhouse
production. The videos are divided up into five different sections: greenhouse
management, nutrition management, growth management, insects and mites, and diseases.
e-GRO University has been funded by the Gloeckner Foundation for two years.

 e-GRO University provides a Greenhouse 101 curriculum
that covers basic information for greenhouse management
 and production.

“For e-GRO University we developed a Greenhouse 101
curriculum that provides basic information for greenhouse management and
production,” Krug said. “It is information that would be comparable to a
freshmen and sophomore college course program. Our goal was to provide an
educational resource for people who work in the industry who didn’t receive a
formal education in greenhouse production. If you are grower in a greenhouse without
the formal training or education, this program allows a person to get a handle
on some of the basics on nutrition, insects and diseases. A person can choose
to listen to any of the videos, which run 20 minutes or less. Most of the
information is basic concepts so it is not going to be changing.”

Krug said the e-GRO team is looking to set up a
certificate program for e-GRO University.

“Listening to any of the programs is free,” he said. “The
certificate program will enable interested growers in holding themselves
accountable and will indicate that a person successively completed the
lectures. The certificate will indicate that a person successfully completed
e-GRO University. There will be five different modules and a quiz at the end of
each module. A person will be able to choose how many of the modules they want
to complete.”

Krug said the e-GRO University program can also be used
by growers for new employees who don’t have any experience or limited
experience in different aspects of growing.

“By offering a certificate program to employees, this
enables employees to be held accountable for the modules that they have
completed,” he said. “We’re hoping that employers will use this for their
employees. We wanted to offer something more for the greenhouse employees.”

Krug said the e-GRO University program can also be used
by vocational teachers who have access to a greenhouse and who may need to
familiarize themselves with the basics before they and their students try to
start growing plants in the facility. This could be a continuing education
program for the teachers as well as a learning resource for the students.”


Other resources available to visitors of the e-GRO
website include:

* Webinars.
This is the newest resource being offered by the e-GRO. The series kicks off
with “Poinsettia Troubleshooting,”
a two-hour webinar on Sept. 18 that will focus on troubleshooting poinsettia
problems. Ray Cloyd will discuss key insect identification and control issues.
Brian Whipker will focus on nutrition disorder identification and management. North
Carolina State University plant pathologist Kelly Ivors will cover disease
identification and control.

* Podcasts. About 200 podcasts have been
completed by members of the e-GRO team in cooperation with Greenhouse Grower
magazine over the last three to four years. Krug said linking the podcasts on
e-GRO enables growers to search for the episodes they want to view.

* e-GRO Bookstore. Brian Whipker has created five
electronic books that are available for the iPad. Krug said that Whipker plans
to continue to create new books for the library. Books currently available

1. Selecting and Using Plant Growth Regulators on
Floricultural Crops. This free publication was done in collaboration with Joyce
Latimer at Virginia Tech and Brian Whipker at North Carolina State University.

2. e-GRO Volume One: Poinsettia
3. e-GRO Alert Volume Two
4. e-GRO Volume Three: Primula
5. e-GRO Alert Volume Four: Sclerotinia

* Floriculture InfoSearch. Although this resource is independent of the e-GRO team, the
members felt it was worth adding to the website. John Dole, professor and head
of the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University,
partnered with American Floral Endowment to create the Floriculture InfoSearch
engine. This search engine provides convenient and comprehensive access to
floriculture literature, videos and presentations. Information is available from
scientific literature and trade and association magazines and websites. The
Floriculture InfoSearch website also contains a floriculture archive with
materials dating back to the early-1800s from AFE, North Carolina State,
scientific journals and trade publications.

For more:
Brian Krug, (603) 862-0155;

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas;

Visit our corporate website at

Seedstock is bringing agricultural entrepreneurs and investors together

While the tech world has received the majority of
investor attention over the last few years, Seedstock is out to make a case for
entrepreneurs focused on sustainable agriculture as a viable investment choice.
By David Kuack
Seedstock in Los Angeles, Calif., is a young company,
less than two years old. But it is a company that cofounder and managing partner
Robert Puro said has a lot of potential.
“Seedstock was started because we saw that there was a
growing opportunity with respect to sustainable agriculture as a viable
economic opportunity,” Puro said.
The product that Seedstock offers is being a facilitator
between entrepreneurs and investors.
“We looked at the major challenges facing the
agricultural system and the amount of food that will need to be produced in
order to supply a growing population. We looked at the world demand. We looked
at that against the amount of land and water that are available. There are a
lot of challenges, but there are also a lot of opportunities. We have become an
aggregator of all of the startups and farms that are using sustainable
practices to show that there is a groundswell of activity in this country.”
Puro said Seedstock is looking at companies that are
trying to use sustainable practices that are helping those companies make
“We look at it from the perspective that sustainability
is not going to exist unless it can make you money,” he said. “The other
component is we want local economies to improve and we want to see the
environment improve, but unfortunately those things can’t happen if the
solutions that are used aren’t economically viable.”
Seedstock – Bringing Investors to Ag Entrepenuers.
Starting with a website
Seedstock began with a website to provide information for
investors and entrepreneurs.
“A lot of what we have been doing with our website is
building our brand and building trust among our reader base and our audience,”
Puro said.”
He said the Seedstock website is a resource of
information that people can’t find anywhere else.
“We track down the information and put it together and
try to get investors interested in it,” he said. “We provide investors with
information to make them more knowledgeable. Then we try to get the investors
together with entrepreneurs, at an event for example. Our goal is to facilitate
dialog between investors and entrepreneurs.”
Puro said that companies written about on the Seedstock
website can be either large or small.
“We really try to look at a company objectively, not
making any judgments,” he said. “In most cases we are writing business
profiles, including start-ups.
“We might write about the challenges a company is facing
with the LED lights it is using? How have its energy costs been impacted? What
are the company’s profits? How much funding has it received? What
considerations does sustainable agriculture play in the creation of the
company’s product? What are its objectives?
“We try to stay away from the advocacy stuff. If company
officials say that their company is trying to save the world, that’s them
saying it, not us.”
Other information posted on the website includes research
from relevant universities and product-related articles.
“It might be a 3-acre farm that is using an innovative
business application that could be potentially implemented in a bigger
operation,” Puro said.
The educational events sponsored by Seedstock are an
integral part of achieving its goal of bringing entrepreneurs and investors
together. Seedstock’s initial event was held on Nov. 27, 2011 at the University
of California-San Diego Business School. It was a panel discussion on the state
of agricultural entrepreneurship.
The company held its first conference on Sustainable
Agriculture Innovation at the UCLA Anderson School of Management this past
“The goal of the conference was to really focus on the
economic opportunities as well as the environmental and societal benefits of
developing and investing in sustainable agricultural solutions, technology and
practices,” Puro said.
The company is planning to increase the number of
educational events that it sponsors.
Seedstock conference in September featured big to small businesses,
including greenhouse tomato grower Casey Houweling.
Gaining momentum
While starting a new company during a down economy may
not have been the best timing, Puro is very excited about the opportunities for
“We want to facilitate more interest and get more
investors who may be thinking about high tech and the Internet to think about
the opportunities in farming and agriculture,” he said. “There are so many
challenges that could be addressed. As sustainability continues to play a
bigger role in agriculture there are more companies popping up. We are also
seeing more business school students looking at ag ventures. There is
definitely a feeling of momentum.”
For more:
Seedstock, (424) 229-1460;
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas;

Visit our corporate website at