Nashwell Partners folder for Ogallala Greens here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1yTTJjyVxSSuUHDt687oSSgfNUg4Yil8R?usp=sharing
1. Tell me about the technical requirements at Ogallala Greens?
https://amhydro.com/commercial-hydroponic-greenhouse-packages/ Download from the AmHydro website for their 15,000 plant system here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lCbBNpbGB8E1loEG-dozD8zqvXdrzUtW/view?usp=sharing
Heather at Crop King in Columbus, Ohio https://www.cropking.com/ 10-36 system (ten-foot channel with 36 pieces) can grow 540 plants Two-day grower’s workshop to answer questions and provide information
Crop King systems can be customized to reach the 15,000 plant AmHydro system: Hort Americas is another supplier, based in Houston: https://hortamericas.com/ https://hortamericas.com/catalog/controlled-environment-technology/the-growrack-from-greentech-agro/
Freight Farms is another example in Boston, MA: https://www.freightfarms.com/ Square Roots does the same thing in New York: https://squarerootsgrow.com/about_us/ (Kendell Musk’s company, selling at $20K per “farm”) https://squarerootsgrow.com/team/
Little Wild Things Farm in Washington, DC: https://littlewildthingsfarm.com/ (Jonathan Patty from Kitchens in Burning Man is with Little Wild Things)
2. What are problems to solve in hydroponic greenhouses?
Access to healthy edible greens is a challenge. The link above is an example of access. Growing greens in hydroponic systems require energy but with payoffs. Supplying the greenhouse with electricity on an ongoing basis or the plants will die. Heat storage to heat the greenhouse in the winter. Water and electric challenges exist. Cooling in the summer months.
3. How much electricity, heat, power, clean water, and cooling do hydroponic greenhouses use?
Electricity: $3.50 per square foot per year = $10,000 per 30’ x 96’ greenhouse per year https://www.quora.com/How-much-electricity-is-required-for-hydroponic-systems
Heat: Natural Gas costs are estimated at $800 per four months in 2016, so $4000/year today: https://blog.zipgrow.com/greenhouse-business-start-up-costs-profits-and-labor
4. Are there opportunities you see renewable energy making an impact in the farming industry? How about in rural areas? At what capacity?
Farmers, being traditionally conservative, are often slow to accept renewable power sources, however this is changing. The new generation of farmers are using technology and app-controlled systems that make farm management tasks possible from a smartphone. As this generation looks to invest in their farms to enhance their earning potential and reduce risk, renewable sources are a becoming more of a conversation.
With each generation who takes over a family farm, there are other who are consumed by larger corporate factory farms who are more interested in the bottom line and may not be interested in renewable energy infrastructure if it doesn’t equate with their accounting practices as a way to maximize profits. There are, however, growing opportunities to exploit government subsidies and marketing opportunities, as well as generating the valuable carbon credits that have benefited Tesla Motors’ balance sheet.
Do we know about grant opportunities with farmers? Grants for farmers to install a hydroponic greenhouse are limited, but the federal subsidy and tax implications are powerful economic motivators.
In addition billions of federal dollars will be available for farmers to transition in the Biden Administration.
The farming is done by the farmers, the technology is done by Ogallala Greens. When money is just sitting there, there are C-Suite and/or Sales Manager opportunities.
5. Have you faced issues with electricity? How long was downtime if any? What temporary solutions did you use? How was it solved?
Investors are interested in high returns and rapid scalability. The uncertainty in the Texas power grid that ERCOT has raised in their response to power failures means that Texan investors are looking to eliminate this risk. To tie rural greenhouses to a renewable energy source is attractive, and the concentrated solar power source with heat storage meets the needs of a greenhouse with heat and power.
The downtime caused by the power outages in Texas created downtimes of days at a time, motivating greenhouse owners to run diesel generators at high cost and environmental detriment that can tamper with crop nutrition and damage the valuable brand equity of environmental awareness that can drive consumer behavior.
The microgrid solution of powering not just the greenhouse but the surrounding rural infrastructure is a very attractive alternative as a backup to the power grid, which may fail. Rather than run diesel generators, the renewable energy solution boosts brand value and motivates consumers, while also providing resources to the local community beyond the transactional commodities of produce alone.
6. From your perspective, is renewable energy expensive in your industry?
It is not considered expensive with new construction. The cost of renewable energy, when added to a discounted price for hydroponic greenhouse equipment, can provide an affordable combination of reliable growing equipment coupled with an power-supply asset with heat and electricity. This fixed price for construction and power increase the scalable profit margin and decrease the risk of rising electricity costs and natural gas prices.
Without new construction, especially if the greenhouses are paid for, the relatively low outlay for utilities may seem desirable for operators who are not concerned with environmental implications of their power sources. Some may be interested in the upgrade to renewable energy to lock in pass-through rates and to begin to pay off an asset as opposed to navigating the uncertainty of rising fuel prices.
7. What barriers are there when adopting renewable energy options?
With rural greenhouses used for hydroponic agriculture, the primary barrier a farmer will face is getting power to the remote site. Traditional agriculture has relied on the natural sun, as our greenhouses will at Ogallala Greens, which is abundant in the open fields where our base of operations is located in West Texas. For water irrigation of crops, farmers have traditionally used pumps powered by the old-fashioned windmills that have become iconic in this area of the country. Also iconic in this region since the dawn of the 21st century are the electric wind turbines towering over the landscape between Lubbock and Dallas, Texas. The challenge, in this context, to run wires and cables from the source of the electricity and the power plant to rural sites away from the city.
The Focused Sun Microgrid provides electricity at a local level using concentrated solar, the same solar heat and power that makes our greenhouses work. This allows the heating of the greenhouse in colder months while the generator converts additional heat into electricity, keeping the lights on at night and the pumps running to channel the water in our hydroponic growing process. In short, the barriers to adopting renewable energy options in greenhouses, other than cost, have to do with the remote nature and getting wires through the power utility from the energy source to the point of use. While cost of renewable energy can be perceived as a barrier, a remote microgrid like the Focused Sun module comes at a cost that pays for itself, especially when you take into consideration the cost of running remote cables if the power company either won’t provide wires at all or charge the customer for the cost of installing them.