Q: What is the goal of ARC Greenhouses?
A: Our goal is to provide fresh, locally grown produce just like the farmers did in the early part of this past century. Back then, everyone had access to either home-grown or locally grown crops that were fresh picked. Unfortunately, these crops were only offered fresh during the growing season. The rest of the year they had to rely on canned or dried produce. As the times progressed, the invention of the freezer enabled people to obtain fresh-frozen produce all year long. This resulted in the concentration of agricultural farming. Farms grew larger and the practice of monoculture became the standard which lowered their production costs. While this type of operation is adequate for produce that can be frozen, it is of little value to the grower of fresh greens and herbs. In addition, shipping fresh products over long distances speaks to its own inadequacy and therefore, the door has been left wide open for the benefits of hydroponic farming. As hydroponic farmers, we are striving to perfect our practices to enable us to meet the demands of the ever changing agricultural production business. Space is becoming more and more limited, while the food demands are steadily rising so more and more produce will be grown hydroponically. The end result will be that people will have access to locally-grown, fresh-picked produce on a year-round basis.
Q: What is hydroponics?
A: Hydroponics is a growing method in which the plants are growing in nutrient-enhanced water. We use a system called recirculating hydroponics. In this system, the nutrient water is channeled through troughs or tubes where the plants have been placed. This enables their roots to absorb what they need from a nutrient solution specifically formulated to meet the demands of that particular crop. The excess nutrient water leaves these channels and returns to a tank where it is carefully monitored to ensure it retains the proper balance of nutrients. This system has a profound environmental advantage: none of nutrients are allowed to go into the ground. Excess nitrogen build-up in ground water plays a major role in contamination of America’s major waterways such as the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently trying desperately to control nutrient enrichment of our underground streams in order to keep our well water safe.
Q: How can plants grown in water taste better?
A: Healthy plants taste better. Healthy plants require healthy roots which enable the plant to acquire the necessary nutrients. Hydroponic growing methods allow the plants roots to have consistent, specially formulated nutrient water at all times. This includes both macro (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and micro nutrients (iron, zinc and copper). Our ability to fine tune these minerals provide our produce with exemplary taste, quality and freshness. Our system maintains the optimum quantities of these essentials in its continuous flow. At the same time the roots of our plants receive an ample supply of water for the important process of transpiration, which enables the leaves to hold a constant, safe temperature. In addition, this steady flow carries an endless supply of oxygen to the roots. Oxygen is of course vital to healthy growth, and since our plants are placed in such a way that part of each root is in water and the rest in air, there is never a lack of this requirement.
It should be noted that many of the “enemies” of plants live in soil where they can attack plants in the root zone where they feed. Research has shown that roots are better able to fight off unhealthy organisms and that the quality of the plant is superior when water supply is optimum. This directly contributes to a healthy micro life. Healthy plants taste better.
Q: Do you have priority trade secrets that make your systems more efficient?
A: ARC Greenhouses has been in business of growing since 1984. We are dedicated to a program of sustained process improvements and have made major innovations in product development and design. These improvements permit us to grow better plants with less cost. Through the use of computers (all developed in-house), we continue to upgrade various facets of our greenhouse complex. Recently, we designed a new type of greenhouse (with associated growing systems) which holds the promise of even greater efficiency. As we increase in size, we are able to invest more each year in our program of process improvements. As a result, we produce better plants today than we did in 1984 and we will produce even better plants in 2020. From the beginning, ARC Greenhouses has relied on original ideas, rather than borrowed ones and business models. At this stage our proprietary information is extensive.
Q: Can you guarantee that your plants do not carry diseases like E. coli?
A: Generally, the vast majority of plants in the United States are safe to consume. However, our growing method provides our produce with the highest probability of providing the safest plants. Traditional farming practices of growing plants on the ground and using manures for fertilizer increase chances of E. coli contamination. Our recirculating hydroponic system eliminates our produce from ever touching the ground and furthermore, from contact with manure where bacteria like E. coli thrive.
Q: How do you get energy to operate, heat and light your greenhouses?
A: We employ a total energy system to obtain the electricity for operating and lighting our greenhouses, in addition to the Btu’s required to heat them. Our total energy system originates in large reciprocating engines running off natural gas. The engines drive a generator that produces the electricity to operate pumps and light the crops in the winter. The water to cool the engines goes through a heat exchanger which in turn heats the water that eventually will heat the greenhouses. The exhaust heat is channeled in much the same way. A great amount of the energy is used to operate equipment located in the growing areas, especially in the lights. In this way, we usefully employ over 90% of the Btu’s contained in the natural gas we consume. The result is a win for us and a win for the environment. In our case, we save money. In winter we either get our heat free and pay for electricity, or we get our electricity free and pay for heat. (Included costs are gas, maintenance and acquisition). In the case of the environment, the less natural gas used, the less pollution through emissions.
Q: What makes your Butterhead Lettuce, Baby Greens, Microgreens and fresh Herbs superior?
A: Our growing and harvesting methods. First, we grow our crops in a controlled greenhouse environment. We feed them with carefully balanced nutrients conveyed by a recirculating hydroponics system. We select the best seeds available and are constantly on the lookout for new or improved varieties. We seed, transplant and harvest on a tight schedule so that crops never suffer from being rushed or held back. We pick fresh produce six days per week and in most cases ship the same day or the following morning. We employ team-oriented workers with a background in agriculture.