Friday, May 25, 2007

We buyout Bjorn, a Greenhouse Collapses

As it often happens with partnerships made in heaven, hell soon rears its ugly head. Bjorn became more and more argumentative in the past week and he made it very plain that he regrets becoming our business partner.

Chuck tried to be very diplomatic with him since that first flare up, but to no avail. Bjorn started talking more and more about returning to Sweden, “where greenhouses are made of glass and herb growers have common sense.” The personal digs aside, we decided that the situation could not go on.

So Chuck and I stuck our heads together and Chuck did some budget figuring. We approached Bjorn with an offer to buy him out, and—not surprisingly—he accepted. As of yesterday, it’s back to a two-way partnership for us!

It’s much the same as before, except now we have four greenhouses. Our very first one still grows 400 heads of Boston lettuce each and every day. The second one produces 600 heads of Pak Choi per day, while the third greenhouse turns out 600 heads of Specialty Lettuce on a daily basis.

The fourth greenhouse is now up and running, growing 2500 single herbs and ready to harvest them when they mature and thereafter per each 24-hour period. We should thank Bjorn for shaking us up a bit and getting us into herb production. We have advance orders for our herbs well into 2008.

The nutritional mix for the four greenhouses is pretty much the same. Our basic ferts, as well as all our supplements, come from Advanced Nutrients, a Canadian company with an excellent reputation in greenhouse hydroponics.

We use two elements only of their standard 3-part fert, Micro, Grow, and Bloom. We never use Bloom, since we don’t want our Lettuce, Pak Choi, or Herbs to bolt and go into flower production.

In addition, we use Grandma Enggy’s Humic and Fulvic Acids, as well as her Seaweed Extract in each greenhouse, except we don’t use Humic Acid in herb production, since the herbs are sold with their roots attached and this particular additive turns the roots of our vegetables black.

There is a reason for that. The word “humic” comes from humus, which is the rich, black, fertile organic substance that our grandmothers grew their vegetables in. Humic Acid manages to recreate that fertile growing mix in a hydroponic setting.

The only drawback—and it’s not really a drawback if you cut the roots off the lettuce or pak choi before marketing—is that Humic Acid turns the hydro nutrient mix deep black and it does stain the roots.

Since the roots of our lettuce and pak choi are immersed in our Nutrient Pond underneath the polystyrene boards that they grow in, this discoloration of their roots is not a problem. The roots get cut off and discarded during the processing of the harvested produce.

Herbs, on the other hand, sell better with their roots still attached to show how fresh they are, so we just skip using Humic Acid in greenhouse number four. Golden Honey Fulvic Acid is perfectly fine to use, as is Seaweed Extract.

The cytokinins, auxins, and gibberlins in seaweed are plant hormones governing many biological processes in our plants, such as cell enlargement, cell division, differentiation of vascular tissue, root growth and intercellular communication.

Most greenhouses these days are actually polyhouses, being that they are constructed of a double layer of air inflated polyethylene which provide better insulation during the cold winter months then does a single layer of glass.

Glass, however, does have its advantages, and this was at the crux of our argument with Bjorn. Glass lets in more light. A glasshouse is less humid. And glass is more durable during adverse weather conditions.

Wet snow, for instance, could cause a polyhouse to collapse, while it might just damage one or two panes of glass in a glasshouse. I don’t know of any studies done on the seismic durability of polyhouses versus glasshouses, but luckily we don’t operate in an earthquake zone.

The life expectancy of the covering of a polyhouse is only three years. This crucial fact somehow escaped our attention, with regard to our Greenhouse number one.

We built our Boston Lettuce greenhouse over five years ago and I didn’t pay much attention to the details of construction, I left that up to Chuck. Well, to make a long story short, the polyethylene fabric of our outer covering gave way and our greenhouse deflated.

Luckily, the material is not only supported by air but also by steel tubing. So this saved our Boston Lettuce crop from being squashed. But it was quite costly to hire extra help for removing the collapsed material without damaging the lettuce growing operation underneath.

We had to truck in brand new polyethylene sheeting and replace some damaged inflating fans. Our Nutrient Pond had to be drained and flushed and refilled with nutrient solution, since some dust and debris fell into it from the collapse and the renovation.

So I mixed not only our basic ferts and the Grandma Enggy products, but also Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice at half strength. Using these root colonizers at full strength in hydroponics might result in too much of a good thing.

They add live microorganisms to the root zone of our Boston lettuce. Piranha provides beneficial fungi, Tarantula contains helpful bacteria, and Voodoo Juice supplies friendly microbes to strengthen the roots of our plants, make them grow big, and aid the absorption of vital nutrients.

Studies have shown that plants treated with these three products grew one and a half to twice the size of untreated plants. Since our customers appreciate large, zesty heads of lettuce, we are grateful to Advanced Nutrients for providing us with the tools for growing them.

We also add Barricade to our nutrient mix in order to strengthen the cell walls of our lettuce plants, enabling them to ward off pests and pathogens of many different kinds. Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections cannot penetrate the tougher cell walls. Neither can the sap sucking mouth parts of invasive insects.

We managed to handle this emergency quite well and hopefully with Bjorn gone now things will return to a calm, productive normalcy which will ensure that we meet our daily quotas and keep our retail outlets and customers happy with the quality produce that our Nutrient Ponds grow.

posted by silvio @ 4:28 AM   0 comments


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