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“The decision to grow organic strawberries in Ohio was a differentiator for the company”

“The decision to grow organic strawberries in Ohio was a differentiator for the company”

Founded in 1999, Nature Fresh Farms is one of the largest vertically integrated greenhouse leaders in North America, producing both organic and conventional varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and strawberries. When asked about their Ohio operations, Octavio Rodriguez, director of growing operations, says the decision to grow organic strawberries was a business differentiator. “This allowed us to become the first company in North America with forty-five acres of organic strawberry production.” Together with Jose Agustine Ramirez Zamudio, head grower, he is expanding the cultivation.

Carrying out tests
As with all crops grown by Nature Fresh Farms, extensive pilot testing has been conducted prior to production to determine optimal growing conditions. This led to the choice of the Growtec Two-Level Swing Gutter System for the cultivation of the company’s organic strawberries.

“We conducted extensive pilot testing, including testing different gutter systems,” both Octavio and Jose said. “The Two-Level Swing gutter system was an obvious choice based on production, plant health and numerous other tested metrics.”

Conducting trials prior to production had its advantage as it provided the team with crucial information to consider when building their facility, including light penetration, planting density and irrigation. “It is important to take into account the differences in light penetration between the upper and lower gutters,” explains Rodriguez. “The light is lower at the bottom than at the top, so you have to adjust the density and watering of the gutter.”

IPM and bioreactor
Once the cultivation system was established, the next step was cultivation. “Cultivation and growth are going well,” notes Ramirez Zamudio. In addition, the team uses an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, which allows us to use good biological agents such as ladybirds to control pests such as aphids, and a bioreactor to provide nutrients to plants to help produce their biological strawberries. .

Looking ahead, the Nature Fresh Farms team is future-oriented: “This year was our first season,” Octavio explains. “We have learned and improved, and we are ready for next season’s opportunities.”