Benchpress Profile: Arie Van Vugt

Benchpress Profile: Arie Van Vugt

As we went to press, Arie Van Vugt of Plainview Growers was installing a new alternative fuel heating system at his more rural facility in Allamuchy, N.J. The 500-hp burner from Crone Boilers in Holland will burn wood pellets and pellets made out of miscanthus that he plans to grow in 200 acres of surrounding fields. Ranked at No. 13 on our Top 25 Young Plant Growers, Plainview has more recently been diversifying into specialty finished crops, including orchids and plants for pets.

As a young plant specialist, why did you move into specialty finished crops?

“The way the market has been going and with the significant increase in fuel costs, we’re trying to diversify our product line in order to expand our customer base and to keep a healthy bottom line. On the vegetative side, we signed on with Fischer and will begin producing liners for the 2009 season. As fuel costs have risen, we weren’t looking to expand the plug side from seed, just because of the costs involved. However, as we switch to alternative fuels for heating, we are confident the costs of growing plugs will be reduced and we may look to expand that part of our business, as well.

“We began growing orchids as a large piece of our business in July 2007. We have 50,000 square feet of orchid production. We also grow herbs in upgraded packaging. We service supermarkets with our sprinter vans on the road and merchandise each store individually, just like the bread man. Our goal is to produce specialty crops in Pompton Plains and plugs and liners in Allamuchy. We have five acres in Pompton Plains and eight acres in Allamuchy. At the moment, both facilities are growing young plants and finished plants and they’re 30 miles apart. We’re planning to add three acres in Allamuchy to make up for the space used for specialty products in Pompton Plains.”

Tell us about your new niche business growing plants for pets.

“We have a new separate company called AgriPet. Our pet plant specialty business started with Oat Grass. On trips into the New York City flower market, we noticed the flats of wheatgrass and asked who purchased them. We were told they were used for decorative arrangements and for cats who liked to nibble on the grass. We moved on from grass to catnip plants and other herbs and salad greens for small animals. It is a unique specialty product that provides Plainview Growers a new market for plants and a unique item for pet stores and grocery stores to offer their customers. We do not promote this product to the horticultural customer.”
 
What made you consider growing miscanthus as an alternative fuel?

“At our Allamuchy facility, which is farm country, there is no way of getting natural gas–just propane or fuel oil. When we started there nine years ago, we were paying $1 per gallon for No. 2 fuel oil. This past season, it was $4 a gallon. We are using approximately 7,000 gallons every week and could not afford it. We’ll burn 150,000 gallons of oil during the season. It was the first time in my career I was ever forced to make this type of decision based on an outside factor, such as energy. We looked at other growers’ operations using wood chips and decided it was too much work, too much handling and not what we were looking to do. When we were tipped off about wood pellets, the whole miscanthus option came up. After researching all the different types of alternative fuels available, we decided on miscanthus. We have since contacted Rutgers University, which is trialing switchgrass and miscanthus as an alternative fuel source. Together we are working on which varieties are best suited for northern New Jersey.”

How are you making the conversion from fuel oil to miscanthus grass?

“We jumped in with both feet and are going to go for it. We’re putting in 200 acres of grass. It takes two years to establish yields. The grass is a perennial and good for 20 years of production. We just purchased a 500-hp pellet burner from Crone Boilers in Holland and are putting up two 250-ton silos. This season, we will be using wood pellets from Energex Corp based out of Harrisburg, Pa., and have a two-year contract with set pricing. Once we purchase a pelletizing machine, we will be self sufficient. Our goal is to be oil/gas free (including Pompton Plains) within the next few years.”

What do you expect your savings and return on investment to be?

“We expect our return on investment to be four years. With wood pellets, we’ll be paying $1.65 versus $4 oil (the equivalent of 144,000 btus). When we switch to grass pellets, we expect to save 70 cents more. This is quite an undertaking, an exciting project. I was at a recent bank board meeting and told them about

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Benchpress Profile: Arie Van Vugt

  1. How profitable is your setup with wood pellet boilers? Can this set up be sized on a smaller piece of property say 6-7 acres and be profitable? How automated is your site? What are the pitfalls?
    Thanks

  2. How profitable is your setup with wood pellet boilers? Can this set up be sized on a smaller piece of property say 6-7 acres and be profitable? How automated is your site? What are the pitfalls?
    Thanks

More From State of the Industry...
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More

March 31, 2015

Manufacturers Are Taking Biologicals To The Next Level

Through acquisitions and new products, many crop protection companies are making firm commitments to the future of the biocontrols industry.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know About Aquaponics

Are you curious about expanding into aquaponics? From pest control to equipment, Bob and Jesse Kilgore of Brogue Hydroponics offer 10 factors you need to consider.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More
DNA-logo

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More
AmericanHort

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More
Shawn McBurney

January 6, 2015

Society Of American Florists Hires New Lobbyist

Shawn McBurney joined the Society of American Florists' (SAF) staff starting January 5 as the new senior director of government relations.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Optimistic For A Strong Year In 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s State Of The Industry survey reveals that growers are being cautious about the inputs they use, and they’re worried about input costs and regulation, but enthusiastic about the rebounding economy.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

The 2015 State Of The Greenhouse Industry: Numbers At A…

Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here's a look at the greenhouse market for 2015.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Suppliers Will Increase Prices, Grower Education For 20…

Vendors' expectations are high for 2015, according to their responses on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey.

Read More