Fifty years makes a huge difference in the evolution of greenhouse architecture. From lean-tos and quonsets to gutter-connected, retractable-roof structures, commercial greenhouses have gained much from advances in technology. With more modern greenhouses have come advancements in the “furniture” to fill them, also known as greenhouse equipment and supplies, as well as innovative plastic films, which have revolutionized greenhouse shapes and framing systems. The growth of commercial floriculture and greenhouse vegetables over the years has fueled demand for greenhouse technology, and new manufacturers have emerged, raising competition and quality standards.
All of this innovation needed organization–enter the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA). Founded in 1958, NGMA represents 65 member companies–27 component, 14 structural and nine service. These include greenhouse manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, as well as researchers, students, growers and other allied trades serving the international horticulture industry.
Today, NGMA is working to promote and defend greenhouse construction code standards and the agricultural classification as the changing landscape becomes increasingly commercialized, says Alec Mackenzie of Argus Control Systems, who serves on NGMA’s Board of Directors as secretary, on behalf of the board. With the help of its new executive director, Denise Calabrese (see “Under New Management”), the organization is committed to raising its industry profile, gaining new members and providing additional services as it moves forward and adapts to the changing international business dynamic.
“The new executive director will facilitate existing NGMA activities and we hope to significantly improve our visibility and usefulness to our industry,” Mackenzie says. “We would like to expand NGMA’s scope to more broadly serve the capital investment side of protected horticulture and promote technologies that will improve the horticultural industry.”
The rest of the Board of Directors includes: Rich Reilly of Rough Brothers, Inc., president; Scott Thompson of X.S. Smith, vice president; Steve Woods of Hortica, treasurer; Rich Perkins of Perkins Communication, service division; Brian Munchel of Ludy Greenhouses, structural division; Tom Piini of Micro Grow and Peter Stuyt of Ridder USA, component division.
NGMA Speaking Out
One of the biggest improvements NGMA has made is in gaining a bigger voice on industry legislative issues. Last October marked the organization’s first-ever event on Capitol Hill, aimed at helping its members connect with legislators and promote the horticulture industry. With high-stakes issues such as comprehensive immigration reform at the forefront of national news, NGMA leaders recognize the need for grassroots action.
“We are reaching out to other industry groups to build a stronger industry voice,” Mackenzie says. The most pressing issues the industry is facing today, according to NGMA, are:
- Labor supply and cost
- Energy costs
- Price pressure and narrowing margins, particularly with big box retailers
- Crop diseases that may close some production areas to shipping
- Zoning problems and permit delays
- Regional code anomalies (fire, building, electrical, etc.)
- Regional property tax interpretations (greenhouses are not classified as agricultural)
NGMA leaders say they are concerned about the consequences to U.S. growers if these issues are not addressed and solved in the coming years. The diverging and changing market structure demands immediate attention to areas such as an increase in greenhouse vegetable production and increasing competition from foreign companies, Mackenzie says.
“These issues will cause the continued decline of the mid-sized grower, rising input prices and falling margins, and an overall loss in the market,” Mackenzie says. “They could also contribute to the success of the small niche grower and very large, well-run wholesale growers.”
2007 And Beyond
From the beginning, NGMA has been instrumental in disseminating information to the industry by creating guides and standards for designing, purchasing and building structures, as well as maximizing energy efficiency, preventing greenhouse damage and reducing water run-off, among other topics (see “Helpful Hints, Irrigation”). NGMA also conducts an annual Commercial Greenhouse Manufacturing Industry Survey to assess the square footage of new greenhouses constructed each year by U.S. manufacturers, as well as gross revenues, employee payroll and other data. The organization wants to grow its image as an information resource with plans to strengthen the educational package available to its members, Mackenzie says.
“In its ’2007 Work Plan,’ NGMA will develop a speakers’ bureau and a certification program,” he says. “NGMA will develop a working relationship and affiliation with other organizations, utilize academic members for information dissemination, ensure positive code modifications and changes that affect the industry, and advocate against issues that negatively affect members.”
Other goals NGMA has for the next 10 years include promoting an increase in systems integration; promoting automation and other labor-saving equipment; promoting energy-saving technologies; increasing industry knowledge through education; and improving liaison support for universities and government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“NGMA is a small organization with limited exposure,” Mackenzie says. “Increased involvement and exposure is our constant objective. We are planning to coordinate better efforts with the trade press, conduct stronger promotional campaigns and gain additional support from NGMA members. Indirectly, NGMA can continue to serve the industry through encouraging cooperation and improvement at the greenhouse manufacturing and greenhouse equipment