The Mr. McGregor Team
The McGregor team has over 99 cumulative years growing Greens and Herbs. The team leader is Bruce Cobb. Day to day operations are managed by Heidi Bowers. Kyle Pertersen and Nick Villiari solve growing issues on a day to day basis. Computer control is the province of Jamie Sherman.
Bruce Cobb started to grow Boston Lettuce in a small rented greenhouse using hydroponics in 1984. That same year, he graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Plant Science with a major in Economics. All McGregor products are grown using hydroponics. In the 25 plus years growing lettuces, greens, herbs and other plants for pharmaceuticals, Bruce has become one of the world’s experts in hydroponic growing. His advice is sought by academia and commercial growers. He has developed a vast amount of technology to support hydroponics and Growing Protocols that enable people to grow plants to exacting technology. These technologies and growing practices have enabled Bruce to drive down the cost of growing, while increasing the quality. One of the major technologies developed is the use of microprocessors to control all aspects of growing. Bruce employees on the average of 3 micro-processors for every 4,000 square feet of greenhouses. This extensive use of automation permits Bruce to constantly increase production while decreasing labor input.
Bruce started to grow and sell microgreens in volume in 2001. In the past decade he has consistently made major invocations in the methods employed in growing microgreens.
In 2002 Bruce was approached to see if he would be willing to apply his hydroponic techniques to grow plants for pharmaceutical purposes. Other growers were having a great deal of trouble in leaning to cultivate these previously wild plants and to consistently obtain the target compounds. In less than a decade, Bruce has completed this Herculean task. Now, new treatments for some difficult diseases will be available as soon as FDA clinical trials are complete as a result. This effort is now paying dividends in the culinary products in terms of new technologies and practices. It turns out that methods and procedures for making a pharmaceutical must be documented rigorously and followed precisely. Bruce has now learned how to apply these pharmaceutical practices to production agriculture. The result is that the produce consistently better.
Heidi Bowers joined us in 2005 after obtaining two degrees, one from York College of Pennsylvania (B.A. in American History) and the other from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (B.S. in Secondary Education). Heidi has grown up through the ranks doing order taking, working in packing and the greenhouses, scheduling operations and managing various aspects of the operation. Now she is running the entire Mr. McGregor operation for Bruce. Every day orders are harvested, packed and loaded on trucks so everyone receives what they need more than 99% of the time. Occasionally, there are times when extenuating circumstances crop up which account for 99% and not 100%. It turns out that Heidi has a mind that can handle complex combinatorial problems. With the help of data base management software, Heidi schedules the germination, planting and harvesting of 60 some products which guarantees a fresh crop ready to harvest at least 3 times each week. Heidi works incredibly hard to make sure every customer gets exactly what they want when they want it. If Heidi can’t get it done nobody can.
Jamie Sherman handles the engineering aspect of all of our systems. In addition, he builds some of our systems, as well as all of our electronic systems that permit the minute to minute management of every aspect of our operation. All the microprocessors are interconnected on a network. Many growers are now applying control systems that they acquire and make to work in their operation. One of our major strengths is that our systems are designed by our growers, built and used on site until they do exactly what is required. In this way, they do what is required, not what some IT engineer thinks might work in a greenhouse. Few farms have an engineering staff and you can see the difference just by touring our farm versus the farm of a competitor grower. The difference is obvious.
Lori Gibson is new and began her career with us in March of 2010. Lori replaced a grower who had been with us for many years but who had to return to run her family farm when her father became ill. Lori had over ten years experience in the restaurant business before deciding to obtain her degree. She graduated from Salem C. C. and the University of Delaware Agriculture School where she earned her B.S. in 2010. She is writing the website and produce descriptions as well as handling issues and problem solving as they arise.
Mr. McGregor Facilities
We operate over three acres of greenhouses in Shiloh, New Jersey. Shiloh is the hub of the last major agriculture area in New Jersey with significant farming. A visitor to Cumberland county can still see why New Jersey obtained the Garden State nick name. A large advantage to our location is we are right in the center of the Northeast where we are within only a few hours of over 25% of the US population. As a result, our local delivery area covers New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Most of our greenhouses are of our own design. Our design permits us to manufacturer them at a fraction of the price of the standard gutter connected greenhouses used by commercial growers. Their independent structure significantly reduces disease and makes it easier to manage pests. The configuration we install them in allows us to clean our entire growing system outside. This significantly reduces the spread of disease. In addition, all of our greenhouses have growing systems built by us which allows us to grow all our plants on rolling tables. This facilitates and reduces the costs of material handling and protects the plants from ground contaminants. The nutrient systems are all computer controlled so the composition of the plant nutrients is always just right.
Growing in the North East permits the delivery of fresh, just picked produce to a large market. However, this also means we must contend with heating greenhouses in the winter. We have taken many steps to reduce our heating costs. Our Greenhouse climate control systems have four significant strategies for heating. The control system always utilizes the combination of systems that result in maintaining target temperatures at minimum cost. We have to generate heat. To do this, we utilize co-generation units which we have designed and built. They use natural gas. The cooling water and exhaust run through heat exchangers which transfer the heat to the hot water which is circulated to the greenhouses through insulated underground lines. The engine turns a generator which generates electricity. A small fraction of the electricity runs pumps and other devices requiring electricity. The bulk of the electricity is used to turn on greenhouse lights which accelerate plant growth in the shorter winter days. The lights in the greenhouse also provide a source of heat which in turn warm the plants. Therefore, our co-generation systems permit us to use productively over 95% of all the BTU’s in the natural gas. Thus, our products grown for the local market have a very low carbon footprint when compared produce flown in from California and Arizona.