September 2, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Slams Louisiana Nurseries

Trees are down and all of Forest Hill, La., a major nursery production area, is without power after Hurricane Gustav rolled through Monday, the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association reports. SNA has set up a disaster relief fund for those who would like to donate. To read or post updates about Gustav and its effects, click here. Check out Benchrunner next week and keep an eye on the homepage at greenhousegrower.com later this week for more coverage of Gustav’s effects on the industry.

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June 19, 2008

What About Structures?

Our Top 100 Growers survey turned up opinions and plans for structures from companies that have the most greenhouse space in the country. Here’s how they responded:  Are you planning any structural expansion in the next year? 54% No 46% Yes  If so, how many acres will you build? Average: 10.9 acres High: 100 acres Low: 1 acre Average turns per square foot: 2.7 High: 6 Low: 0.6  Average sales per foot: $10.38 High: $30 Low: $1.20  

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June 19, 2008

NGMA: The Next Generation

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. Retrofitting Itself Today, NGMA is working to promote and defend greenhouse construction […]

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June 19, 2008

Retrofitting Options

Retrofitting a greenhouse is all about spending money to save money. In many cases, increased energy efficiency may be the easiest way to see new technologies impact the bottom line. However, the benefit of improved crop performance should not be overlooked as a factor in the bottom line savings (or rather gains)–from faster turns and fewer chemicals to improved labor conditions and reduced disease potential. Though there are numerous components of a greenhouse where retrofitting may result in greater efficiency, this article will focus on those that influence temperature and light. Shade Netting For years, shade netting was available in black with the amount of shade determined by how tightly knit the fabric was woven. The purpose was primarily to reduce heat or light. Over the years, new colors have been introduced, including an aluminum covered fiber, in an effort to manage the light while reducing the heat. Frank Giglia, […]

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June 19, 2008

Attacking Growers’ Diverse Challenges

No two greenhouses are alike. Each has its own set of differences, such as the crops, the climate, the production volume, the existing facilities and more. It is also true that no two greenhouse builders are exactly alike in their approaches to the challenges provided by the diversity of growers. "Most of the commercial growers we deal with have a little bit of glass and have a little bit of polyethylene, as well as some longer-term plastics covering," says Scott Thompson, executive vice president at X.S. Smith Inc., Washington, N.C. "They like to see a mixture, because at certain times of the year or in stages of their production cycle, those areas are constantly in operation. Our mission is to try to design and create systems that will accommodate their particular production needs for the crop they grow, as well as the region where they are producing that crop." Maintaining temperatures […]

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June 19, 2008

Repelling Radiant Energy

For bedding plant growers who grow every month of the year, shading, cooling and ventilating prevent greenhouses from overheating and creating a stressful environment for the plants. The greenhouse was developed for plant protection against local climatic extreme pressures such as wind, rain, snow and insects. The greenhouse structure is the starting point for controlling the climate or for creating a climate that is tolerable and ideal for plants. If one is growing year-round most anywhere in North America, there are certain months when overheating is a problem. The plants being grown need to be protected from a too stressful environment. Ventilating and/or cooling must be used to drive the temperature down. From a practical perspective, the first step in the cooling of a greenhouse is to ventilate it or exchange the captured heat with fresh, outdoor air. For example, let the wind extract the hot air or install exhaust fans […]

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June 19, 2008

Fueling Expansion

Generation X growers are ready for tomorrow’s challenges. Pictured from left are John Bonner, sister Jill Cain with husband Todd Cain. When we visited, they were growing Easter crops in new greenhouses.In less than 10 years, Eagle Creek Growers in Mantua, Ohio, has emerged as a model mid-sized operation with room to grow. The modern growing operation was founded in 1998 by Jill (Bonner) Cain about an hour’s drive southeast of Cleveland. She was fresh out of college, implementing a business plan she drafted for a course at Ohio University. Up until recently, Eagle Creek’s primary customer was Eagle Creek Garden Center, an upscale destination garden center she opened in nearby Bainbridge four years later. In 2003, her brother, John Bonner, and husband, Todd Cain, took over the wholesale operation while Jill focused most of her time on retail. Both John and Jill are third-generation entrepreneurs in our industry. Their grandfather, […]

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June 19, 2008

Who’s Your Mr. Fix-It?

To be honest, greenhouses mystify me. I don’t know how all of you out there do it. So much can go wrong–disease and pests, nutrition–and that’s just problems with your plants. Your structures are a whole other story. There are so many things to worry about–not enough heat, too much heat, expensive heat, water logistics. And, of course, there are the more extreme worries–debilitating hurricanes, fires and snowstorms. Getting ahead and staying ahead of structures issues is a job in itself, forget about growing great plants. That’s why we were so impressed when we visited Eagle Creek’s greenhouses in Mantua, Ohio. Siblings John Bonner and Jill Cain gave us the grand tour of the facilities, but Gary Jansen, the facility’s maintenance magician and all-around Mr. Fix-It, really impressed us. The facility has switched its fuel source from petroleum-based products to wood-based products. And the mid-sized operation has two huge indoor pools […]

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June 19, 2008

Under New Management

Last fall, the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) contracted with Calabrese Management, an organizational management firm based in Harrisburg, Pa. After 10 years with its previous executive director, Melanie Hughes of Hughes & Stuart Marketing in Littleton, Colo., NGMA is sure to go through some changes. NGMA’s new executive director, Denise R. Calabrese, owner of Calabrese Management, says her firm’s goal is to work with the volunteer leadership to strengthen NGMA as an organization. “We will be working with the board of directors to analyze existing programs and ensure that the needs of the industry are met,” she says. Some of these more imminent improvements, she adds, will be in the organization’s communication structure–improving NGMA’s Web site and newsletter, and increasing electronic communications. On the educational side, NGMA’s meeting agendas will be strengthened to provide valuable information to the industry, Calabrese says. For instance, the annual meeting NGMA hosts each spring […]

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June 18, 2008

Insights on Retractable Roof Greenhouses

Retractable roofs first came on the production greenhouse scene in 1991. In these past 16 years what have we learned about their role in cooling, ventilating and shading? The concept of opening the greenhouse’s roof to get cooler air to plants is a logical one that most growers are catching on to, according to Richard Vollebregt, President of Cravo Equipment Ltd., Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Long growing seasons, varied needs of plants and changing weather conditions make retractable roof greenhouses and their versatility an asset. This January, a freeze surprised growers on the West Coast, where the promise of mild temperatures lulled growers into leaving crops unprotected against the elements. “The plants that were in the greenhouse were okay,” Vollebregt says. “What happened to all the plants that were outside? They died.” The balance between healthy, strong plants that are grown outside and protected plants in the greenhouse that need to […]

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June 18, 2008

Nurturing Urban Gardens

An urban garden in St. Louis will be able to produce more fresh produce for its neighborhood this spring thanks to a new greenhouse it received from Nexus Corp. as part of a national contest. New Roots Urban Farm was chosen as the winning entry. The nonprofit was founded by four friends in 2004 to provide healthy, locally grown food for the impoverished neighborhood located between St. Louis Place and the city’s Old North neighborhoods. No grocery stores are available within walking distance to offer healthy food options. The consensus-based collective is dedicated to serving as a model for urban agriculture, food security and self sustainability. Last year, the farm harvested more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce and distributed it through its farmers market, which accepts food stamps, and through food pantries, churches and community centers. With the new Cultivator Premier Kit Greenhouse from Nexus, the farm will be […]

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June 11, 2008

What’s Old Is New Again

Anthura set out to build a new greenhouse that would centralize young plant production for the Anthura Plant, Anthura Microplants and Anthura Production departments. The design of the Palm house of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London was the source of the new design, which incorporates curved sidewalls and a second story. The greenhouse is being built by JM van der Hoeven B.V. under the guidance of architect Aad Bom. The construction is due to be completed by the end of 2008. The design of Anthura’s new facility is based on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which was built in 1848. Most greenhouses of the time were built near royal palaces, and many included orangeries, palm houses, in addition to botanic plant collections. The greenhouses of that period exhibited ancient examples of structural steelwork, which give the greenhouses of that era that still stand monument status. New Design While […]

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