Agribusiness: Colorado Greenhouse expands to New Mexico

FORT LUPTON — After tucking $30 million in sales under its belt in 1996, Colorado Greenhouse LLC will expand out-of-state for the first time as part of its plan to put an additional 40 acres under glass.

The company produces hydroponically raised tomatoes on approximately 70 acres under greenhouse and, “We sell out everything we’ve got, so that’s why we’re expanding,´ said A.E. Bridgwater, marketing director.

By the end of 1998, the expansion should bring in an additional $16 million to $17 million in annual sales, Bridgwater said, or more than a 50 percent increase over 1996 revenues.

Half of the 40-acre expansion will be constructed on a site in Estancia, N.M., where the company expects to begin production in October. The remainder of the expansion will double existing production at the Fort Lupton site by the end of January 1998, Bridgwater said. Fort Lupton is also the company’s corporate headquarters.

In addition to the Fort Lupton facilities, the company, which employs 300, has 40 acres in production in Brush and 15 acres in Rifle.

Currently, Colorado Greenhouse raises 30 million pounds of tomatoes annually at greenhouses located in Colorado. Each acre produces about 425,000 pounds of tomatoes annually, Bridgwater said, and the company grosses about $1 per pound in sales.

The expansion is expected to cost about $16 million to $17 million in greenhouse construction, the most expensive element of the planned expansion, Bridgwater said.

“Land costs are the cheapest part of the whole thing,” he said.

Other costs include bees to pollinate the blossoms, beehives, predator insects to “eat the bad bugs,” and a computer system to run the water that feeds the plants and operate the shading system, Bridgwater explained

Raising tomatoes hydroponically is very different from raising them in traditional ways, Bridgwater said.

It’s common for a plant to grow as high as 30 feet and produce 50 to 60 pounds of fruit. No chemicals are used to control pests, and, because the bees are enclosed, pollination is thorough and effective, Bridgwater said.

Further, the climate-controlled greenhouses make production possible year-round.

Colorado Greenhouse raises only tomatoes, but Bridgwater said the company is considering growing colored bell peppers in the future. The company recently added a line of yellow tomatoes, a sweeter, nonacidic tomato, Bridgwater said.

Ranch-Way seeks 4-H kids

FORT COLLINS — Ranch-Way Feed Mills, a full-line feed manufacturer at 546 Willow St. here, has already signed up 110 4-H Club youngsters for its annual Ring of Champions program, which culminates at the Larimer County Fair beginning July 25.

“But we’re looking for more to join,´ said Bonnie Szidon, Ranch-Way financial manager, “because we’re big on promoting 4-H.”

All 4-H members who sign up and purchase Ranch-Way-labeled feeds for their large animal projects for the fair will receive a cash rebate after the fair closes amounting to 10

percent of the total of the feed purchased, Szidon explained.

Those who join Ranch-Way’s promotion and win one of the several divisions are also eligible to receive additional cash prizes and a champion’s jacket, Szidon said.

Agland purchases Gilcrest facility

EATON — Agland Inc. recently purchased an existing 12,000-square-foot facility in Gilcrest to augment its current crop-production center operating out of that town.

Bob Mekelburg, Agland general manager, said the warehouse and office facilities “give us more expansion ability in the future and enable us to better serve our southern and southwestern territory.”

“We will build a shop for some of our heavy equipment and applicators,” he said. Because the existing space is “a little large,” Mekelburg said, Agland may decide to lease out part of the space.

Eaton-based Agland is an agricultural cooperative with divisions in beans, feed, petroleum, farm and home and crop production.

Crop damage light so far

GREELEY — Although some farmers had crop damage from hailstorms over Memorial Day weekend and on June 2, as a whole, Weld County hasn’t had too much damage — so far.

That’s the assessment of Arnold Germann, Weld County executive director for the Farm Service Agency, which administers federally funded farm programs.

“Right now, I’m estimating that we’ve had about 10,000 acres of wheat that was hailed anywhere from some of it being hailed out to some of it being pecked,” Germann said. “We may have had 2,000 acres that were pretty well hailed out.”

Weld County has about 180,000 acres planted in wheat this year, he said.

Germann estimated that the hail destroyed 250 acres of sugar beets so far. Some beet crops were also damaged earlier in the season by frost and had to be replanted, he said.

“Most of the irrigation guys are telling me that even the onions and (other crops) that got hailed on will probably come back,” Germann reported.

However, persistent rains in the county have some people concerned.

“Low-lying areas and some of the irrigated fields are under water, and those crops will probably be drowned out, but they will be small acreages,” Germann said. “What we need is time to dry out.”

Editor’s note: Long-time Weld County resident and Northern Colorado Business Report correspondent Beverly McConnico takes over the Agribusiness column with this issue. Send your news to her at (970) 330-8518.