Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years.
Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business.
“They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people as they grow. That tells a lot about the company – from vendor relations to customers, they are very understanding, very complex and very fair. It’s a good relationship.”
Nexus is literally building on that relationship, which started in 2010 when it supplied Gotham Greens with a 15,000-square-foot Nexus Atrium greenhouse for its first location in Brooklyn (Greenpoint), N.Y. In 2013, Nexus supplied the second location, known as Gotham 2, with another 20,000-square-foot Nexus Atrium, constructed on top of the newest Whole Foods store in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Nexus is also working on Gotham Greens’ 2015 projects, one in Queens, N.Y., where the operation is nearing 80 percent completion on a 60,000-square-foot greenhouse atop a garment factory; and one in Chicago, where Gotham Greens is building a 75,000-square-foot greenhouse on the roof of the new Method cleaning products factory.
Warschauer says constructing greenhouses on top of other buildings is a huge challenge compared to building at the ground level.
“Everything is different and everything can be an issue,” he says. “All the things you don’t think twice about on the ground – the logistics of building on a rooftop are of huge concern. The Nexus-licensed engineers are invaluable in this process, and have proven that there is more than one way to skin a cat. From shipping and crane coordination, installing beams to anchor the columns, to beefing up the roof, working with and understanding other trades work and working closely with Gotham’s architectural team, as well as figuring out the weight distribution issues and dealing with the weather, it’s a constantly moving target.”
Nexus Has Been Part Of The Innovations At Lucas Greenhouses
Another recently completed project is a new shipping greenhouse at Lucas Greenhouses, where the operation is using the facility to produce hanging baskets. Warschauer says the idea was to build a shipping house with 20 overhead doors that would allow the facility to load and ship 20 trucks at a time. He says he thought back to his experience building a similar facility at Glass Corner Greenhouse several years ago, to help Lucas Greenhouses find a solution.
The result is a 50,400-square-foot shipping facility with a glass roof, shipping bays, radiant Biotherm floor, Dramm Water Ozonation system and as many GTI basket systems as they could fit (nine per each 42-foot-wide greenhouse). This type of shipping facility is preferable to a metal roof structure, because it offers the operation some return on investment by using the roof area for basket production, Warschauer says.
“Lucas is using every square inch of that roof – I’ve never seen so many baskets,” he says. “The structure is two-fold – shipping and producing a basket crop to help pay for the house – but they’re not worried about shadowing a crop underneath, like in a greenhouse. If this was a metal roof structure, you couldn’t do that.”
Within the last couple of years, Lucas Greenhouses has also added five acres of “A” Frame Nexus Convertible retractable roof greenhouses, with a unique roof system with moving cloth panels. Warschauer says it’s best used from about April until November, and shouldn’t be used in the winter with the risk of heavy snows.
“Growers often look to go from the greenhouse to the outside too early – we all know the risks involved with that in a northern climate,” he says. “Growers wish they could push a button in their greenhouse and have instant outdoor growing conditions to harden off that crop with less plant stress and reduce the risks from bad weather, but they also take a risk with a late freeze and foul weather, going outside too early. This Nexus Convertible roof uses automated controls and a weather station to open up the roof, providing the perfect outdoor growing environment, while the convertible roof provides weather and frost protection when needed.”
Nexus Is Investing In New Frontiers
Nexus Corporation is increasing its business providing greenhouses for greenhouse vegetable production. Warschauer says the locally grown movement may have been considered a fad a few years ago, but today’s consumer wants to know not only where their food came from, but also how it was grown.
“It’s not just organic anymore, but pesticide free and local that will drive the nation’s supermarkets and other food retailers and what they offer to today’s demanding consumers,” he says. “Folks like Gotham Greens were way ahead of this trend long before it was popular, so who’s next?”
Next steps for Nexus include continued rollout into the growing medical and recreational marijuana markets.
“(Cannabis) is a fast-moving market, and we have to pay attention to it, especially as it pertains to legality, how the crop is grown, ethics and other issues,” Warschauer says. “We are working with a great group of consultants – and these experts know cannabis, so when they’re telling growers what they need, we’re paying attention.”