Growers Offer Advice on What to Know Before Your Next Building Project

Dallas Johnson GreenhousesThere are several factors to consider when venturing into your next potential greenhouse building project: How far in advance do I need to plan? Does it make more sense to buy an existing facility, retrofit one I already own, or start a brand-new build from the ground up? How do I deal with the inevitable disruptions that will come up, whether it’s weather or something else?

Greenhouse Grower magazine talked to a couple of Top 100 Growers about their most recent building projects, the challenges they addressed, and what they learned during the process. In addition, two structures suppliers weigh in with their own tips on making sure your next building project is a successful one.

Dallas Johnson Deals With Disruptions

Last fall, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses added 6 acres of a Nexus Dual Atrium greenhouse to its perennials production facility in Iowa. Owner Todd Johnson said the initial plan was to add a 11/2-acre facility, but plans changed when the company saw an opportunity to capture a greater share of the perennials market.

“Things come up that you don’t expect, and depending on the timing, it can be tough,” Johnson says.

For example, Johnson says he wanted to put road rock in the building as a base to keep the plants from sitting in water, but he soon learned that gravel is not always available late in the year. A winter wind storm also blew off several side vents during construction, although Johnson says the builders were able to make due and turn it into a usable structure quickly.

When it comes time to decide when to build, Johnson says he relies on the demand of his customer base.

“I don’t build anymore unless I know that I have a market share to facilitate it,” Johnson says. “We used to build based on market speculation and when the market would open up opportunities, but I don’t do that anymore.”

The planning process for any projects to take place in 2018 is already in place, Johnson says.

“I am putting budgets in place now, but spring will ultimately determine what we do,” Johnson says. “I normally start by prioritizing what we want to do, and at the end of spring we see how much money is available, and that helps us decide which projects we’ll tackle.”

In the near future, any expansion plan at Dallas Johnson will likely involve a new build.

“I’ve upgraded everything we have, and we’ve put money back into them every year to keep them functional,” Johnson says. “Anything new from this point will truly be new.”

Sedan Floral Plans for the Future

Kansas-based Sedan Floral recently completed a 4.6-acre greenhouse project, and President/CEO Jonathan Cude says the company continues to improve and modernize its existing greenhouses.

“I’m half grower and half construction company at the moment,” Cude says.

As expected, the planning process for this and any project starts early.

“I try to set a plan or vision for new structures and remodels five to 10 years into the future,” Cude says. “I plan where the business will be going in the future so as to not paint ourselves into a corner. I also try to not waste capital on major renovations to a structure I’m planning on replacing in the near future.”

The decision to buy a used facility, retrofit a current one, or build a new one is always done case by case, Cude says.

“Clear your mind, look at the opportunities that exist, create ideas, and then challenge them,” Cude says. “Once you have a list of possibilities, a calculator will almost always tell you what to do.”

Cude notes that this recent new greenhouse construction will yield big savings in many different ways.

“It is not the typical automation via robotic transplanter, but it will help with product movement.”

Big Growers Planning Big Projects This Year

In the 2017 Top 100 Growers survey, Greenhouse Grower asked the nation’s largest growers, if they were investing in structures this year, what specifically they were planning to build and/or retrofit? Here’s what some of them had to say.

  • Roof-vent cooling instead of fans
  • Double-poly, gutter-connected structures
  • Expanding our capacity at one of our existing sites
  • Addition of propagation houses
  • New greenhouses to replace old structures
  • We are starting on an eight-year, 40-acre greenhouse expansion to grow our business further due to increased demand
  • Cravo retractable for shipping, 60,000 to 70,000 square feet
  • Head house and production bar
  • Greenhouse coverings
  • Shade curtains, additional outdoor space, potential covered space
  • Glass gutter connected
  • Glass houses for heated ranges, Ravi style for outdoor covering
  • Just completed a 102,000 square-foot Westbrook structure
  • Poly-gutter connected houses
  • Finishing our 4.6-acre greenhouse project and continuing to improve and modernize existing greenhouses
  • Quonset buildings and remodeling a Cravo
  • Building close to 10 acres of indoor, environmentally controlled growing space
  • Building 50,000 square feet of additional greenhouses
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