Spend Now, Save Later
After investing in high-efficiency boilers, Matt Goff is confident he’ll reap the benefits in savings.

 

PROFILE: Matt Goff, Operations & Maintenance Manager, Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse, Red House, W.V.

 

Matt GoffMARKET: Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse produces and sells hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers, bedding plants and blooming potted plants to Kroger grocery stores in four Mid-Atlantic zones. It also sells its blooming potted plants, tropical foliage, and dish gardens to florists within a 150 mile radius in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, and operates its own retail store.

 

GROWING AREA: Total growing area encompasses approximately 8 acres in 20 houses; the newest being the 1.5-acre hydroponic tomato greenhouse. Gritt's utilizes the old three-quarter acre hydroponic greenhouse for bedding plants, blooming potted plants and hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers.

 

GREENHOUSES: Built in 2008, the 1.5-acre range is a Rough Brothers Gothic Poly Arch 180, with inflated double polyethylene coverings. The three-quarter acre greenhouse is a poly arch structure with a double poly roof.

 

DELTA T HEATING PROFILE: The new greenhouse includes a hydronic heating system, powered by two Futera Fusion Model CB 3800 condensing boilers, with one 8800 Series Model HB3600 two-pass heater that provides back-up heat. Delta T also designed the floor level heating, grow pipe heating, mixing valves and associated piping.

 

HISTORY: Established in 1944 by Tony Gritt, Jr. as a side business growing tomato and vegetable plants and seedlings, his business quickly developed into a full-fledged bedding plant operation. In the 1970s, Gritt’s began growing and selling tropical terrariums, dish gardens and blooming potted plants. Gritt’s built a greenhouse for hydroponic tomatoes in 1993, selling to Kroger grocery stores, and that business doubled in 2008 when the company expanded its Kroger sales territory.

 

ALL ABOUT EFFICIENCY

The 1.5-acre expansion to accommodate Gritt’s hydroponic tomato crop was built in the fall of 2008, utilizing Fusion condensing boilers as a step up from the operation’s hot water heating system, says Goff.

 

“We chose to spend the money up front for the Fusion condensing technology, which offers higher efficiency,” he says. “It was easy to calculate what we would save in natural gas and it was a no-brainer to justify spending a little more because we could see the payback would be less than five years.”

Fusion Boilers

 

An added benefit to the new Fusion boilers was their small size and easy installation and implementation, Goff says. “As a natural gas boiler, the Fusion system is much easier to install and operate than, say, a biomass fired option, be it coal, pellets or wood. Instead, you just have water, natural gas and electricity; you don’t have to handle any solid fuel.”

 

A LEAP OF FAITH

Doubling the growing space of its operation to expand the hydroponic tomato business was a risk, but one that has paid off for Gritt’s. The operation began growing hydroponic cucumbers in the older greenhouse in the summer of 2010, after bedding plant season, and while Goff says this first crop was a break-even endeavor, he considers the crop a success.

 

Tomatoes Tomatoes

 

Now that we have some overlap in our greenhouse production, we can produce hydroponic tomatoes the majority of the year,” he says. “That helps keep our customers happy and keeps product out in front of the consumer.”

 

Marketing crops as locally grown has helped the business, Goff says, and with the operation’s small size and proximity to its market, the fact that it can handpick, pack and ship ripe tomatoes,  and have them in front of consumers within two days, helps.

 

ADVICE TO GROWERS

“Try to put yourself in a position where you can afford to spend more upfront during construction for higher efficiency equipment, because it will pay for itself in the long run,” Goff says. “For us and probably for many others out there, our biggest expense is natural gas and energy. You’re better off spending more in advance with the benefit of spending less in gas later.”


 
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