By tapping into Agra Tech's countless years of knowledge and experience, the Green Nova Nursery located on four acres in Casablanca, Chile is positioned for growing success.
Working closely with its Co-Owner/Production Manager Nicolas Manterola, ATI played a major role in helping Green Nova to design and build a 160 ft. x 132 ft. sawtooth greenhouse that's broken into five separate growing zones. It's been fully functional since January of 2019 and already producing walnut and cherry fruit trees at the rate of approximately 400,000 walnut trees and three million cherry trees every season.
With their new ATI greenhouse, Green Nova will be able to more than double their production that was previously 150,000 walnut trees and one million cherry trees. The company will be selling the products they're currently growing in their ATI greenhouse by July of 2020, Manterola said.
The city of Casablanca is located in Chile on Route 68 between Santiago and the city of Valparaíso, at about 30 minutes southeast of Valparaíso and 50 minutes northwest of Santiago traveling by car. It is a region known for white wine grapes, especially Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay, but thanks to Green Nova, it will hopefully be known for its walnut and cherry trees as well.
It's a large project, but with 11 years of industry experience, it's something that Monterola has done before. "This is the biggest operation I've been a part of and it's very exciting," he said. "We use mobile benches, HAF fans, a high-pressure fogging system, specific environmental control systems and cooling pads, all of which were recommended by ATI. We started planning this project for greenhouse facilities in 2016. We needed desperately a change in our operations and Agra Tech has been involved in this new adventure from the beginning."
To help Manterola so that he could acquire the right greenhouse for his particular application, he traveled to California Dec. 2017, for a tour of companies using ATI greenhouses, including Dave Wilson Nursery in Hickman, Burchell in Fowler, and Sunridge Nursery, that are both located in Bakersfield.
It was an invaluable trip for Monterola, he said. "Jim Bergantz took me around and I was able to see a wide range of different Agra Tech greenhouses in action, and it was an extremely beneficial experience. We have very specific requirements in order to produce high-quality cherry and walnut trees that will thrive in a wide range of different environments. That is why visiting other greenhouse operations helped us to determine what we needed and how we could achieve our goals. We also convened at Agra Tech's corporate HQ on the first day and last day of the trip to meet the team and go over specs and project requirements."
Each growing zone within Green Nova's expansive greenhouse creates a different climate as the baby walnut and cherry trees get ready to be sold to farmers throughout Chile and eventually in Argentina and Portugal. Once they have gone through the fifth and final stage, these trees will be strong and sturdy and prepared for anything they'll encounter as they grow and bear fruit.
They all begin as clonal rootstocks that are created in a laboratory before they go through the different stages of acclimatization. Rather than using germinated seedling rootstock, Green Nova creates clonal rootstocks that possess the characteristics that its customers covet. When they enter the greenhouse initially, they don't have their own roots and need to be monitored carefully before they bud and are ready to ship, a process that normally takes them a bit more than a full year to grow from 10 inches to four feet.
"Jim Bergantz was able to anticipate potential issues and provided us with excellent guidance from start to finish," Monterola said. "In addition to Jim, we would also like to thank Anita Pound who helped us in the overall design; James Roberts who assisted us in drafting layouts and answering a lot of our technical questions, as well as John Pound and Eloise Pound, who did an amazing job coordinating logistics for the international shipments. ATI is a fantastic organization and it was a team approach all the way. The fact that they were able to do every aspect of this project remotely showed how organized and experienced they truly are and without them we couldn't have done it."
Green Nova has big plans for the future as it grows at a steady rate, just like the trees they create. "We want to expand the operation into growing pecans, almonds and avocados, to meet the demand here in Chile," Monterola said. "With this ATI greenhouse we're doing things we couldn't do before and it provides us complete control during the entire process from start to finish. We are now taking a much more sophisticated approach by using cutting-edge equipment and Agra Tech has been instrumental in taking us to reach the next level."
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This greenhouse is only the beginning of an ongoing relationship with ATI and AgCon that could last for many years. "The marketplace for greenhouses is really taking off, so the game plan is for us to work more with ATI on additional structures after we complete this one," Sawyer said. "We want to pursue this as much as we possibly can, because this technology is becoming so sophisticated and it's only going to grow from there. Before I was working here, I was building clean rooms for 25 years for electronic and pharmaceutical companies, and many of their synergies are very similar. When you take things such as air changes and temperature envelopes into account, both industries are very precise and the end results are indicative of that."
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