In September 2013, Village Farms finally announced that they were back in growth mode after completing their insurance settlement from the devastating hail storm on May 31, 2012. The rounding off of the settlement approved plans to rebuild 8 hectares of the remaining 16 hectares of greenhouses that remained damaged from the hail storm in Marfa. The first 16 hectares had already been repaired and was back in production in December of 2012. The repair plans started immediately and included multiple technology enhancements, such as raising the height of the facility, which modernized the structure and extended its useful life and increased its productivity.
The working crews immediately started reconstruction in October 2013 and they did a good job completing the refitted Marfa greenhouse on time. The greenhouse was finished and commenced harvesting in July and is now in full production. “We planted our new crops on the first of May this year”, said Korteland, the Texas Regional Manager at Village Farms. Korteland is happy with the new greenhouse and the new crop is growing perfectly in the new structure. “It’s almost as if we are growing inside a completely new structure.”
Raising the structure
The original Marfa structure stems from 1998. After the hail storm, Village Farms decided to refit the greenhouse with the latest technology. The Dutch company T.C. van den Dool raised the height of the structure with 1.90 meters (six feet); from a height of 4.60 meters to height of 6.50 meters and a new gutter system was installed. “We are now growing on this new IV gutter from FormFlex with a width of 32 centimeters, which enables us to place to substrate slabs next to each other; so we can continue to cultivate a new crop on a new slab by the end of each growing season. We are very happy about this new advanced gutter system.”
The new greenhouse is now also equipped with a totally new irrigation system and a high pressure fog system (HPF). According to Korteland, the HPF provides a perfect extra tool to steer the crop. “This works perfect, especially in the higher structure. When the plant suffers from stress, we can use the fogging system to cool down the crop. It’s a perfect tool, yet you have to know how to use it. Keep a close eye on the crop and think carefully when, how you use it.”
At this moment the crops inside the Marfa greenhouses are in excellent shape. “The new greenhouse and technology are giving us the perfect tools to grow the best crops”, said Korteland. This year, Village Farms started the new crop at a different time than normal. So far, production and quality has been better than expected.
Village Farms is always looking for the right supplies and tools to achieve the best result, and Korteland is aware and up to date with all of the latest tools that are available on the market, such as ReduHeat and ReduFuse coatings. “Each time we are examining if we should us any coatings on our roof or not. In some practical trials, ReduHeat proved to be a good solution, but we decided not to use it this year due to the fact that we had many rain showers during the summer, which gave us many darker days than normal. We were concerned that we would lose too much light during the summer so we decided not apply ReduHeat this year.
Village Farm’s greenhouse has a shading cloth that provides Korteland with a high grade light diffusion inside the greenhouse. According to the grower, the cloth is only used during the time of planting the new crop. “In this period of the year we have too much light inside the greenhouse, and we need to protect the young plants. We use the shade cloth until the fourth cluster is flowering and then again in the winter at night as an energy screen.
Korteland furthermore explained that he is using coir substrate in the Marfa and Ft. Davis, Texas greenhouses. “We are using 100% Riococo growbags in these two locations although our other facilities, locations in Texas and Canada use a mixture of coco and rockwool”, Korteland said. We prefer coco because at the start, the crop temperatures in the greenhouse can run up to 38-40C. The coco slabs stay cooler because of the lower water content, so more oxygen is inside the bag which gives less chance of root diseases.
Additionally we find that for our requirements it is a more forgiving substrate. With the coir from Riococo, we are able to steer the crop perfectly and prevent further damages as in Blossom End Rot. The unique varieties that we grow like Mini San Marzanos can be much more sensitive to these issues. Our customers demand us to pick the highest quality during the entire season, Riococo slabs play a vital role in achieving this.”
In an article that was previously published on HortiDaily.com, Korteland explained why he preferred Riococo above other suppliers. “When you take a closer look at all of the coir that is available around the world, you will find a lot of differences amongst them. For us, Riococo was one of the coir slabs that really stood out for consistency, uniformity and the right mix. Their service and further investment in knowledge, relationship and support had convinced us to start using their slabs on a small acreage and within a few years we switched to 100% Riococo coir slabs”, Korteland said.
Village Farms would like to thanks the following companies for doing a great job Reconstructing Marfa 1:
Mountain High Greenhouse Construction, Gill vd Drift, Colorado
Thomas Larssen, Greenhouse Engineering, Canada
TC van Der Dool Greenhouse Lifting, Leveling and Construction, Maasdijk
PB Techniek Electro and Water Techniek, Maasdijk
Jan Voshol Heating and Electro, Bleiswijk
VerBakel Heating, De Lier
Luiten Greenhouses, De Lier
Hortimax, Canada & Holland