The Scoop from Indoor Ag-Con and Top States for Greenhouse Veggies

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jen Polanz Subscribe
Inside Grower
COMING UP THIS WEEK:

Inside Indoor Ag-Con
     - Data & Technology
     - Protect Your Investment
Dallas Market Grows Own Greens in Growtainer
U.S. GH Veggie Market


Inside Indoor Ag-Con

Ah, Las Vegas. Where everything changes and yet it all stays the same. Aside from good food and good fun, we learned a ton from the seminars conducted at Indoor Ag-Con, now in its fifth year. Focused in (mostly) equal measure on vertical indoor hydroponic/aquaponics and cannabis growing, the show brought home a couple of key concepts for me. One of those is food safety, the importance of which cannot be understated.

Whether it’s a crop of lettuce, herbs or medical (or recreational) marijuana, someone is ingesting what you grow in some way. The impromptu keynote speaker, Sarah Taber, a food safety auditor at WQS (keynote Greg Shewmaker of Target had to cancel at the last minute), provided an eye-opening look at how farms should approach food safety. She recommends getting all food safety measures in place before growing and shipping. She specifically mentioned a 2006 outbreak of E. coli on spinach where it took seven years to recover sales for those growers.

Fortunately, she says it’s not too difficult to create a culture of cleanliness. She says to place sinks close to where people work and encourage them to wash their hands more often. Have someone checking constantly to ensure soap, paper towels, a trash can with liner and lid are always available. Practice safety with chemicals (“the label is the law”) and make sure any equipment used is designed for food handling. That means any lubricants used in the machines should be food grade. You can read a few more of her recommendations in the Inside Grower supplement, which will mail with the June issue of GrowerTalks/Green Profit.

Indoor Ag-Con will host another event in the U.S. this year, a one-day conference October 16 in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. Limited to 120 people, this event will be split into four themed sessions looking at the big picture of indoor agriculture. Attendees also have the chance to take a tour of Kennett Township’s mushroom farms on October 17. Click here for more.

Data and Technology

Another concept brought to the forefront at Indoor Ag-Con is the concept of data. As grows of all kinds become more automated, growers will have more information about the crops and their environment than ever before. One of the stickier points to this is who exactly owns the data. It came up a couple of times at the conference and it will be interesting to see, as we go forward, how this topic is handled.

Speaking of technology, there was quite a bit of it there, from environmental controls to LED lights (oh man, were there a ton of LED light companies) and data analysis companies. It’s clear that as labor continues to be an issue, and as the technology advances, that we'll see more automation in the greenhouse and warehouse (or shipping container). There are lots of companies jumping into this space, too, mainly to be around the general area of cannabis grows. So a word of caution, which came knowingly from Yurij Duda, general manager of Argus Controls, is to avoid operations you aren’t familiar with. Take your time to vet your vendors thoroughly—especially when it comes to larger purchases like environmental controls and LED lighting—and ask other growers who use them for their thoughts. Also, make sure you understand their customer support before you make a commitment. Wise words.

Protect Your Investment

While walking the show floor, we visited the Method Seven booth, which produces glasses that allow growers to see their crops under different lighting conditions. It originally started with glasses that allowed them to balance the harsh yellow light of high pressure sodium lamps. At the show, they were highlighting lenses that allowed growers to see their crops normally in LED light situations.

 
Here you see the before with the LED and after through the special camera lens.

The difference is pretty stunning when you look through the glasses, and they allow growers to scout for pests and diseases while the LEDs are going. They also had a filter for a camera lens, so Jen Z. took before and after photos to show the difference (she also got one of me wearing them, so you can see what they look like).

  

Market Starts to Grow in Growtainer

Dallas specialty grocery store Central Market, which calls itself a “foodie wonderland,” will provide customers fresh leafy greens, herbs and spices grown onsite in a custom-built Growtainer, says Glenn Behrman, founder of Greentech Agro LLC and CEA Advisors LLC.

He says the objective is to grow the freshest, unique, gourmet leafy greens and herbs for Central Market customers right there at the retail level. Central Market and CEA Advisors worked closely with Chris Higgins and Tyler Baras of Hort Americas to train Central Market associates to operate a food safety-compliant, climate-controlled, LED-lit, multi-layer vertical indoor production environment.

“CEA Advisors is proud to be working with the Produce Team at Central Market, all committed to innovation and focused on food safety, unique products and customer experience,” Glenn says. The custom-built Growtainer is the result of more than a year of meetings with the Produce Marketing team at Central Market. “We spent over a year discussing their concerns and objectives, and when I was sure we were all on the same page, we began the design and manufacturing process.”

Glenn says the 53-ft. Growtainer has a separate utility area and provides 480 sq. ft. of climate-controlled vertical production space. Besides having a dedicated proprietary technology for ebb-and-flow irrigation installed and a state-of-the-art water monitoring system, the Growracks are equipped with energy-efficient LED production modules, which are designed for multi-layer cultivation.

Data on U.S. Greenhouse Veggie Market

Last enews, we took a look at the greenhouse veggie market worldwide and this time we’re homing in on the U.S.A. Gary Hickman of Cuesta Roble Consulting in California sent over a couple of different statistics for the greenhouse veggie operations in the states (these do not include cannabis).

Top 5 States by Number of Producers

Pennsylvania—593

New York —435

California—427

Maine—386

Michigan—341

 

Top 5 States by Acres (sales in the millions in parenthesis)

California—650 acres ($165M)

Arizona—319 acres ($124M)

Texas—187 acres ($47M)

New York—115 acres ($27M)

Florida—81 acres ($15M)

Gary adds that of the total number of greenhouse vegetable farms, 1,515 are certified organic producers and account for 460 acres. Click here to order a copy of the North American Greenhouse Vegetable Production Statistics, 2017 edition.

As always, feel free to email me at jpolanz@ballpublishing.com with comments, questions, news and views.

Until next time,

Jennifer Polanz
Editor-at-Large
Inside Grower


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