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...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
HRI logo

April 8, 2015

Horticultural Research Institute Accepting Scholarship …

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) is offering seven scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year, totaling $20,000. Applications will be accepted through May 31.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates H…

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More

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