When greenhouse farmers require some much-needed help and sage advice, they call a doctor. But he’s not a medical doctor—he’s an agricultural doctor and one of the leading experts on the subject of indoor farming in the world today. By working with greenhouse growers all over the world, Dr. Matthew Stong, Ph.D., is making the planet a healthier place to live, by teaching indoor farmers the importance of organic, sustainable and environmentally-conscious growing techniques. He is the Chief Science Officer at EcoFarms International in Redwood City, CA, a global facilitator of sustainable organic agriculture. Over the years, Dr. Stong has developed a mutually beneficial business relationship with Agra Tech, Inc., in Pittsburg, CA, a company that manufactures commercial greenhouses and provides affordable solutions to Dr. Stong and his greenhouse clients.
Dr. Stong knows the greenhouse industry like the back of his hand and that’s why people from all over the world use him for assistance in establishing greenhouse operations and setting them up for success. He advises his clients on how to set up their greenhouses; identifying the best crops to grow in their particular regions and even assists them in finding viable markets for each. It’s been a winning formula for many years and his list of happy customers is a testament to his knowledge and passion for greenhouse growing and sustainable organic agriculture.
Dr. Stong, 41, has an impressive resume, including his experience with the World Bank and later as a consultant for the prestigious Mandarin Group in China, a controlled environment agricultural engineering company. During his work in China, Dr. Stong designed, built and managed greenhouse hydroponics-based operations. In addition, he was a visiting researcher/lecturer at the Taiwan National University under the USDA’s International National Needs Fellows Program. Dr. Stong holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and a M.S. degree in Soil and Water Science from the University of California. He focuses mainly on the scientific and technical issues within EcoFarms and responsible for the transformation of capital – be it monetary, intellectual, or political – into technology in furtherance of the company’s objectives.
Dr. Stong is a consultant, but he also is a greenhouse farmer himself, managing and producing organic crops out of two acres containing two large Agra Tech greenhouses in New Mexico. At EcoFarms International, the mission is to further develop and embody the global development of socially conscious and sustainable agriculture.
“Our controlled-environment greenhouse biosystems provide the optimal foundation from which to build sustainable, locally-grown, organic produce,” EcoFarm’s website stated. “By growing delicious, nutritious organic produce all year round with minimal environmental impact and carbon foot print is definitely the future of food production in the world. More and more people are seeking out high quality, wholesome foods that are both local, sustainable and 100% free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We’re producing premium organic vegetables and fruits that have been picked ripe and delivered fresh for optimal flavor and nutritional value. We will improve the carbon foot print of food from farm to table by integrating state of the art technology and distribution systems.”
The organic foods business is the fastest growing segment in US agriculture, according to EcoFarms International. Currently the demand for organic foods is 10 times greater than what is being produced. In 2008, this industry produced $23 billion in sales and is estimated to grow at a rate of 18% per year. Fresh fruits and vegetables represent 39% percent of this huge market and are forecast to increase in sales by 83% in the next ten years.
DR. Stong is a strong believer in the theory that if you build a greenhouse growing environment that produces good food, people will seek it out, and that’s why he enjoys getting greenhouse growers started in the business, he said. “My entire philosophy is by providing assistance and information to small greenhouse growers,” Dr. Stong said. “We can provide a very valuable tool for them by allowing them access to our knowledge and experience. Smaller greenhouse farmers can’t afford big greenhouse consultants, and that’s why we keep our prices affordable. The new trend is moving toward more small greenhouses in different locations, as opposed to larger greenhouse operations in one location. That way, there’s more variety and more quality.”
Dr. Stong has been working with Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading commercial greenhouse companies, for several years and respects the manufacturer for its vast knowledge and excellent customer service. “I really appreciate working with the Pound family, the owners of Agra Tech,” Stong explained. “Their service, support and entire approach to this industry definitely set them apart from their competitors, and that’s why I work with Agra Tech.”
Dr. Stong also likes the fact that Agra Tech makes affordable greenhouses of all sizes, in order to accommodate farmers both large and small. “I have discovered that Agra Tech’s prices are probably the best in the industry,” Dr. Stong said. “In addition, their delivery is top-notch. If I order something and I need it in a pinch, the people at Agra Tech make sure that I will get it as quickly as humanly possible. If something needs to be fixed, for example, I can get things from them within 3-4 days, and that means a lot.”
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Ingolia also has praise for Agra Tech's customer service and expertise. "From the beginning, James Roberts at ATI was our point person," she said. "He was amazing and was more than willing to help us through every aspect of the planning and construction. It was very helpful to be able to rely on James and tap into his extensive knowledge. We asked a lot of questions along the way and he was always there with the answers."
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