Polygreens Podcast

037: Good Design is Goal-Based

August 06, 2021 Joe Swartz & Nick Greens Season 1 Episode 37
Polygreens Podcast
037: Good Design is Goal-Based
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Joe and Nick give you examples of industry goals and helping you understand the design process.

More about Joe Swartz:
Website: https://amhydro.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HydroConsultant

More about Nick Greens:
Website: https://www.nickgreens.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/InfoGreens

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Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the poly greens podcast. And, , I'm Joe Swartz from AM hydro, along with my friend and colleague Nick greens of the Nick greens grow team. And today we're going to talk about you. We're going to talk about you as a grower, as a, an engineer, as an enthusiast, as a home gardener, , as a researcher, as an educator.

So, um, so really what we, when we look at country environment agriculture, and we look at social media and everything else, of course, we're inundated all the time with all of these big grow operations and all this cool technology. And, um, there's certainly places for that. And there's certainly applications for that.

But, uh, Nick and I, you know, both, we, we met consulting on a, uh, project a number of years ago. That's six years ago already. Um, Nick has consulted for growers all over the world. I have traveled the globe myself, um, work with growers and, and every single one of them is very unique, their, their personalities, their mission, their situation, their location.

Um, and so we'd like to really kind of crack, you know, crank down a little. And look at the process. And what we really like for you to do today is to think about your own particular situation. Cause basically everything that we're going to talk about today is applicable to you. If we're talking about a large-scale commercial system, a home hobby system, some type of research system, any of those things they apply to you and how we approach a project or approach a client or approach some type of commercial venture or the types of CA system.

Will apply to you in certain ways. And so Nick has a very unique and pragmatic approach. Um, my approach is as well, based on my experience and success as a commercial grower, what I've seen, uh, in the industry. And, uh, Nick's got a few projects coming on right now that he can talk about as well. But what we'd really like to do is kind of start at the beginning because people sometimes look at the technology, they look at the systems and this is, they want this, but they're not.

Quite sure exactly what they're doing or what their goal is. And so we really start the process in kind of a holistic way. So what we'd like to do is kind of talk you through this and regardless of your situation where you are, whether you're a commercial grower or just someone that's interested, what we're talking about today will apply to you.

So just think about your own situation stare in their project. That is at the beginning stages. Is it, are they further along as the farm been running for only two years? I mean those things. I mean, any of those, uh, do depend on how we approach it. Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So, Nikki, you were talking off air a little bit about a new project you're working on recently.

Why don't you just kind of walk through, walk everyone through how you looked at the project and kind of where you're at. Well, first off, I look at the project based on, on, you know, a couple of different things on first off, do I have the resources in front of me right through, do I have the partnerships also?

Um, as well, you know, sometimes people come to me, they want to build the cloning, a lab or a tissue cloning. Well, I don't know much about tissue cloning. I don't know that many people that do tissue cloning. So that would be a project that I would turn down, you know, something in that kind of categories.

But if it's just a regular vertical farm and they want to do it indoors, a lot of people don't know usually where they want to put the farm. You know, some people. You know, don't don't know, or they see a expensive shipping container, you know, spent, can I, should I spend $130,000 on a shipping container? I would absolutely recommend them not to, um, you know, I would rather rent out a little.

200 square foot office and do it in that office first, before I tell somebody to buy $120,000 shipping container. So that's kind of one way too, right? Like, so it's just the way, well, this particular, uh, project that approached me, um, they have a loft. Um, so they rent out a loft workspace where they already doing work out of.

Uh, so they asked me if that would be a good space. That's where I would start with this project. This project has already got the loft. I want to go check out the loft and see, you know, uh, you know, what that temperature's like inside that loft Glen Behrman had, uh, one of our previous guests have made comments just here to your earlier point about when he is approached by someone.

If someone is really married to a certain technology or married to a certain, uh, process that he doesn't think. Is a good one and that will, you know, it does not have a good opportunity for success. He'll turn those clients away. And there's, there's very few consultants that will do that. Um, which is a good thing.

And I know that you've done that in the past where you've said, look, here's what, what I'm recommending and it's based on XYZ. Um, and, and sometimes clients, you know, they have something in mind and they want to pursue that. But if, if you don't think that that's a good approach, I've done this before. If you don't think it's a valid way forward, you know, there, there are times when you have to say, well, okay, well, good luck.

And here's maybe someone else that would help you. But, uh, I, I don't want to be involved with a project that, that I know doesn't or feel strongly does not have a good, it might just be a, a cost factor. Right. They may be spending a little bit more than they're bringing in and I can see that model already in front of my face.

So I'm going to let them know that this is not right. And then. Not making money as part of their, their, their, their plan. Right. And I don't know, who's going to make a plan on growing food to not make money. So that's, that's, you know, so yeah, if you're a farming, which is what we're all doing, and then on certain levels, if you're a farming, obviously you're looking to produce plants to get a positive economic outcome to make money.

Doing it. And so there's a lot of factors in that I know with clients. In fact, I I've been working recently with, with one, um, they wanted a certain type of stuff. And we sat them down and we, we kind of reeled it back and started talking to them about their goals. Um, you know, this was in the Northeast, um, wanted to build a hydroponic, greenhouse, wanting to grow lettuce and, you know, on the, on the surface that may look good and you say, okay, well here's a greenhouse and here's a growing system that would allow you to do that.

But we had to really dial them back and start looking. What they were looking to do and what came out was they weren't, they didn't have a lot of clarity. And that's something that all of you should be thinking about. Um, even if you're a commercial grower stepping back and that self-reflections, I was really valuable.

So, so stop and look at what you're really ultimately trying to. As we've talked about in the past, when you're farming commercially, obviously one of your primary goals is to make money. Well, so, so what are you looking to do? You're looking to become a commercial producer of lettuce and culinary herbs.

Okay. So where are you looking to sell those? Well, gee, I didn't really think about that. Or, um, you know, I read in, in, you know, on LinkedIn and that, you know, the there's a waiting market everywhere because there's a food shortage in the world. Or I read that you can grow hydroponic tumeric. Let's just.

Let's just turn everything to tumeric and sell it. And I'm like, well, where, where are we going to sell all that tumeric? Well, tumeric in the store when I buy it, it's very expensive. So I'm sure you can make a lot of money growing it. I'm not sure how to, how to do that. And do you know what fumaric really is?

And do you know how to process it too well, harvesting and harvesting the root? Are they harvesting the leaves or the flowers, or I thought that you just grew these little tumeric pills that you can then put in a bottle and people come back. So, yeah, so, so I mean, understanding, and, and we're, you know, we're, we're making some light out of the, you know, some of the specialty items, but really.

Regardless of whether you're growing kind of a basic staple who'd prop like lettuce or you're growing something unique, obviously there's growers that are growing, um, flowers for saffron growing cannabis, medicinals, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals cosmetics, regardless of, of the actual crop you're looking to grow.

Really dialing in where you are in your you're in your plan, you know what you're looking to grow and where you're looking to sell it or how you're looking to market or how you're looking at it to get it to the end. Consumer is really important. And again, as I said, I mean, he's even as an experienced commercial growers, sometimes re-evaluating my growing operation based on those factors is very bad.

So, so we always work with the clients extensively to really dial in what they're looking to, to produce why they're looking to produce that we, we help them to do market research and really understand, you know, what is, what is out there for a market. And then sometimes that made show them that maybe, maybe growing lettuce in this region is not a great idea because the market is already fairly saturated with good quality.

If somebody had a bunch of time and they want it to. Take it slow. What you recommend workshops to them before buying equipment as well? Oh yeah. I mean, something like that. I mean, there's, you know, market market for time, for example, is somewhat limited in a lot of areas, the production methods to grow high quality time, the harvest timing, the processing, if need be all of those things are really important factors.

So, you know, are you looking to grow dried herbs? Are you looking to sell fresh market herbs? Yeah. And again, a lot of that is going to be dictated by where you're looking to sell them and, and where you are looking to sell them is going to be dictated by what market demands are out there or how much it costs you to produce it per pound as well.

Absolutely. But not only market demands, but market opportunities. We've had a lot of growers I've done this myself. Um, sometimes you. Let's say basil, for example, in an existing market, you want to get in there because there's not enough good quality basil. You want to get in there and compete with all Bazell growers, but we've started to grow other niche crop crops specifically because there's no product in the market.

Um, you know, even some big commercial growers, like sunset farm have capitalized on some of the specialty snacking tomatoes. And that's something that actually we did with snacking cucumbers a few years ago, is that. European cucumbers, beta alpha cucumbers were all very, very popular in these local markets.

People like them and consumers. And remember this, everyone, the, the market consumers are always looking for something new. Always this will never change. This is always evolving. I've been in the produce industry for over 50 years. And I can tell you that people are always asking, what else have you got?

We started looking at the market and we started producing some specialty snack and cucumbers, real high flavor, really good quality gourmet. This, the local areas had never seen those before. And so we saw an opportunity and there, of course there's a risk there that's a little bit of a gamble, but put some production into these snacking cucumbers.

And we went into the market knowing that there was a great and strong demand for regular. We're more gourmet cucumbers and this just really, I mean, it took off like wildfire because people really enjoy those. So when you're looking at your present or potential markets, um, understanding not only what the markets are specifically looking for, but maybe what the markets haven't thought to look for yet.

So there's a lot of different things that you can do. And I always, when you're marketing or you're thinking of it's basically, it's all just plain gambling. Yeah. Oh, for sure. Um, I have my entire life. Uh, my wife's been very patient with me. Uh, everywhere we go. I stop in grocery stores. I stop at farmer's markets, walk around, see what's out there, see what people are growing.

You see, that's a really good thing right now. Uh, you know, hydroponic, the word hydroponic is getting more accepted. It's getting, people are understanding what hydroponics is and not scared of it. Do you recommend if you're doing hydroponic lettuce or anything? Hydroponic? To immediately go to the markets and sell there.

Is that, is that a first place for someone to. Well, yeah, the retail markets are always a good, a good place. Um, both because consumer acceptance, as you said, is, has been growing rapidly. Um, people, when I started in the business, people would say hydroponics, what hydro what? And didn't understand a lot of that.

Now, almost everyone is very familiar with some types of controlled environment ag products and, and, and again, Oh, there's a lot of customer loyalty there too. They try those products. They're high quality. They like them. Um, so yeah, so the market demand is there, but also retailers have, um, you know, produce buyers have become very familiar with hydroponically grown coders and I've come to know, um, the, the quality and consistency.

Um, the, the, the, the longevity of the product, you know, a hydroponic lettuce producer, that's, you know, three miles away from a grocery store is going to give you product that is going to last on the shelf significantly longer than a head of lettuce, then traveled 4,000 miles in Wisconsin. In the state of Wisconsin, you can go to any quick trip gas station and get aquaponic grown lettuce, and the gas stations, gas station.

So any quick trip in Wisconsin sells hydroponic lettuce while our aquaponics. Okay. So if you, if any of our listeners in Wisconsin, if you need to stop for cigarettes, lottery tickets, maybe a red ball and some aquaponic lettuce, you know where you're going to go, don't forget about the bud light. They need their buy light.

But, um, but yeah, so, so really a deep dive, um, into two markets. And again, you know, this is looking at selling to retail. Selling at farmers markets selling direct to consumers through farm stands at CSA. There's a lot there and a lot of opportunity. And I re I always recommend it to growers or potential growers to not limit themselves to one model, you know, and even talk to the person that's running the farmer's market before, you know, go talk to them and ask them who's been selling.

What, what do you think that we should be bringing to the market? Sometimes they can have some, some past information that you can work off of. Oh, absolutely. Farmer's markets. I personally never liked working with farmer's markets because I don't enjoy sitting at a table on Saturday, Saturday, all day, selling products to the consumer.

A lot of people do, but the input, the direct and immediate input that you get from consumers is so valuable, whether it's constructive. Um, so even if they had coffee in a, in a good, a breakfast burrito for you, With that, what that gets you to go there, at least for the first time used to be a little bit more, but certainly the value of that input.

Um, I've told this story before I'm in public, but we had, um, uh, we ran a year on farmer's market here in Western, Massachusetts on our own farm for seven years. And, um, we had a lot of fun doing it, and we did a lot of, um, you know, we met a lot of great people. We had farms from all around the area come in.

So we were the only hydroponic grower in the market. We had a number of other conventional farms. We had some organic farms of meat producers, and we're in a college town Amherst, Massachusetts. So people, there are, you know, very sophisticated in terms of their, their purchases. And we, for years would have someone, whether it was to me, my wife, or one of the people working with us, um, people would pick up the lettuce and look at the, you know, we had a lot of signage explaining hydroponics and all that, and they would.

Is this is this lettuce organic. And so we, you know, we, we we've of smile because, you know, that's, that is the most common question we ever got. And so we explained to them, uh, what organic Lee produced produce of what. Um, processes and in growing organic lettuce and how we grow and the process that we use in all of that.

And in all the years, we were in the farmer's market, not a single person after getting the explanation of how we grow, not a single person. Put the lettuce back, they always bought the lettuce and most of them became loyal customers. So that educational component is important, but also the, the feedback, understanding what's important to your, to your co your customers, and to build up a really good email list too.

I think it's, it really, really works out to do that, to get an email list of people that are really interested in this urban farming or anything to do with community farm. Yeah. Um, there's not a lot of informal, uh, market research, some formal studies, but, but a lot of it is anecdotal. Um, I've spent years in different produce terminals all over the place.

And over the past several years, the trends that are are dominant. People, people talk about organic produce versus conventional a lot, but that's not really what consumers are talking about. Consumers are interested in local. They want to know something about their grower. They want to know if their grower is somewhere, someone here in their region.

They want to know if that grower is using sustainable practices. If the grower is growing, you know, dedicated to food safe practices, they really want to know a lot about it. They want to know the story of your product. So, so that's also, again, very valuable information. People will take locally grown pesticide prey.

Every single day over say organic or some other type of premium product. So, so that type of information really only comes from being in the business. It comes from talking to people. So that's the kind of thing as a grower or potential grower that you want to really understand. And that's something that we always help with work.

I mean, there's a lot to it and talked about it already a lot, but there's inherently are. Unbelievable amount of benefit to doing that. So, so we can talk about the systems. We can talk about all the different processes all day long, but without that real foundation of understanding what you can and should be growing and how you should be marketing it in a good way to get them to understand that, you know, uh, uh, organic or non-organic or hydroponic or traditional, I started to grow in a tree.

Where the top of the trays filled with soil. Uh, the tray, the tray is lifted up from the bottom tray. So there's a, there's a gap between the two and then the, the, the roots are all growing in the air. So, so I got soil grown, but then I'm feeding my roots water from the back. So only water. The soil never gets wet because the water goes up to the soil.

So it's actually soiled, grown hydroponically fed. So now we're going to be going into the nit greens, custom new hydroponic soil hybrid growing system, apparently. But yeah, I do that. Joe is because the micros. Tighter together. I'm trying to figure out on how tight close can I get together and what size will they get till they start showing signs of stress.

So that's a great segue into kind of the next phase of the, of the process is kind of your, your design identifying, um, what types of systems and what type of methodology would best suit your needs. So, so to Nick's point that Nick is talking about growing, um, uh, micro green product or a baby leaf product.

And how would he know that he would want to be doing that? Well, because he. Did a lot of the market research we talked about and he's talking to potential markets. And so he's identified a niche in the market that he wants to fulfill. So now next stage, and again, we'll hypothetically use Nick as the client.

So Nick understands his markets really well. He's done his homework, he's built this foundation. So now we have to. Well, okay. What types of systems, what type of methodology would best allow him to do that? And we have to look at a number of factors. So first of all, where, where are you, Nick? You know, where in the country are you?

What's the climate like? And then that's why I chose the soil to be the first medium to germinate in is because it really doesn't matter where the world seed is going to find a way to germinate. Right. So. Yeah. What's your environment, the physical, exactly. It's the physical environment. Yeah. So that's, that's in, are you in a, a rural setting where you have space?

Are you in a high rise, in an urban setting? I mean, those are all important factors. So you have to start looking at what's available to us, um, what our current conditions are, and then build a model around that. And again, always keeping in the back of your head, the economics. Yeah, and you don't have to grow in soil straight soy.

I could have used cocoa or I could have used, you know, I could have used the piece of paper towel once again, the reason why I chose this is because it has the micros in there for me to allow to grow more product per square inch. So once next goals are, are understood and refined, then we're just looking at the tool.

And that's all this is. And so to growing media that even the nutritional management again, it's tools. So, um, that's an excellent point. So once we start looking at the crops and we start looking at what we want to produce, and we start looking at where we are, what we've got to work with, then obviously there's other factors involved in.

A lot of them are, again, you can. So what level of technology you plan on using somehow, um, is tied to in some way, is tied to your infrastructure and your, the, your body. Um, if you're a small scale, rural grower with limited resources and limited materials available to you, obviously the type of systems and methodology that you use are going to be slightly, you know, somewhat different than if you were growing in an urban setting with, you know, high levels of technology and infrastructure.

So again, this is going back to there's no, with this project that we're talking now is it's think of teak farm. That does high end high end. So we're doing quality over quantity, but in a very small set. Yep. Yeah. So you're looking at the systems that will allow you to do that. You're looking at the environmental management in that space.

So that loft system, that loft a situation, obvious dialing all the processes that go into that space. Absolutely. Yeah. So you have to be looking at as lighting and Keating cooling CO2 air movement, VPD. You're looking at wall Doug Nadia, Saba, Dr. Greenhouse. So we had on recently, um, you know, really.

Illustrated that very clearly for everyone is that you have to look at the, the environment, the envelope, if you will, where you're growing your plants and, and look to, um, to what you need to provide or what you need to do to be able to provide them. So that's really important. The system will be all based on root temperature zone, right?

Yeah. Well, the systems we're going to be using and what we're, we're growing in the little tray. We have to, we have to worry about the root zone over the leaf stone. Yeah. But they're both important. In fact, I just, I just pulled it up here. Um, not as a podcast just went out today and I've got a quote from her and she said controlling the environment around the plant is one of the most overlooked and underrated portions of designing and planning, indoor farm a hundred percent true because.

Sometimes when I go into a boardroom and we're thinking design and the estimate for the HVAC system is $2 million. Uh, one of the guys in the room will say, can we make that 1 million?

We have to cut our production in half. Well, yeah. And I mean, if you're a, if you're. Constrained by budgetary situations. Like most of us are then instead of just kind of saying, well, okay, this doesn't work or we have to completely, you, you can make different modifications to a project to meet them. But that's a, that's a big factor.

Um, I just saw some arguments on a social media platform recently where people were arguing about indoor plant factories versus a greenhouse versus growing outdoors. And one of those, you know, the arguments is, well, you need to be efficient. So you need to install this type of racking system and this type of automation.

You know, completely ignoring the economics involved, not only the, the operational costs and potential return on investment could, or, or may or may not be, but also just the, the, the budget, you know, pro I work on projects every day where the budget for the project is a major factor. So don't be afraid of that.

Don't be. Um, you know, sometimes people tend to shy away from that. I can tell you from personal experience in my own growing operation, my first foray into hydroponics was back in 1984 and I built a good sized greenhouse. It was almost a 5,000 square foot greenhouse. You just showed your age. Yeah, well, my face shows my age too.

But up to your, um, your favorite question about what advice would you give your younger self is? And that's what I've thought about a lot and what I, what I would have done. If I could go back is I would have. Scale that back significantly. And I would have started smaller and I would have invested more of my money and time and effort into better systems, better technology, better methods to produce more with less.

So the, the idea of, you know, what you can put into building a system or purchasing a system or operating a system is very relevant to that, uh, to, to what we do. So in our design, while we're helping you to do that and selecting the right technological tools, that's a big factor. So again, going back to, you know, what crops, your, your research and your, your, uh, Market study had what, what crops and what crop plan you want to put forward, that design that we're now doing?

That's, uh, you know, it was based on. But the economics, your infrastructure, where you are on the world or where your geography is, is also really important. Um, and that's when we really started dialing in, on the technological tools and, and the importance to have a professional while you're making these decisions.

You know, the question that I get the most, and I'm pretty sure you get this question too, Joe. Can one of those arrow garden juice plus, uh, um, can we just put a thousand them in, over in the room and, and, and we're going to make money and I'm like, oh, okay. I mean, don't get me wrong. Those systems work for education.

They work to teach the kids and the understanding basics behind it. But when you put that into scale, Cleaning those things, Joe. Oh my God. I got one of those for free Joel. I gave it back to them. I didn't even want it. Yeah. Scale is really important, you know? Um, And so, so that's, that's, I mean, I mean, how you would build a 3000 square foot home versus a thousand unit apartment building, you know, are very different.

So scale and scope and even potential future expansion are very relevant. So you're right. Something with that, that, that, uh, analogy there, bill. So I think the way people should think about it instead of your 200,000 square foot facility. Break that up into like 2030 of those rooms. Well, for a lot of albums, treat them like a hotel facility.

I think you're onto something with that analogy there. Sure. We're called the hydroponics hotel and, uh, we'll set up different floors for different things, but, but in all seriousness, I mean the, the, the scope and scale, um, and even potential scope is, is very important as well with all of our clients, especially our commercial growers.

We have to design a facility that is profitable and effective for the goals that they have standalone. So let's say a 30 by 96 greenhouse. So that has to be, that has to be functional and successful as it stands. But if a client even thinks at this stage, well, if things go well, I would really like to maybe build out and add a few more greenhouses.

So we always work into the plan that. I for future expansion, you know, so looking at, you know, a packing house and how that can be expanded, laying out the greenhouses in such a way. So a gutter connects to a greenhouse can easily be yeah, expanded. So even again, as I said, even if they know never expanded, it never changed the model from what they started with.

If you want that model to be, be adaptable enough where if they do explain. That they can do that very easily. I have seen over the years, many growing operations expand and ones that have failed to plan properly, basically in many cases have had to knock down what they had and when they expanded and rebuild.

Um, whereas other growers who set it up appropriately, we're able to pretty easily expand. And when you expand, you don't knock down, you keep that money running. That's like the car industry, right? Joe, the car industry that are selling gasoline engines is only running. Not because it, it works. No, because they have to keep that money coming in.

Well, sure. But I, I have seen growing operations that needed to expand or were looking to expand and they there, and they shuts down all revenue. Yeah, well, it didn't, it didn't it in with their expansion. So they actually needed, then that's not the model. Well, that was it. It was poor planning. Hey, it's not going to fix our plan.

So we need to break what's working and build something that we never bought before. Yeah, yeah. Poor planning. Um, there's a lot of, you know, real corny, old sayings about proper planning and poor planning and all that, but it's very true. And when you are looking at investing 10, 20, 50, $200,000 into a commercial growing facility, that lack of planning is, is very dangerous and economically damaging.

So, so as consultants. Um, one of the things I'd like to everyone just to understand is that as a consultant, Nick has done this. I have done this as a grower. What a consultant really is doing is guiding you based on their experience and the experiences of their yeah. Other clients. And that is translated to lots of mistakes.

And if you hire me as a consultant, One of my primary goals is to help you avoid the inevitable mistakes and pitfalls that most growers fall into. Why do I know about these mistakes? Because I've made those mistakes or I've worked with someone who've made those mistakes. And so to streamline the process, to be more effective, we want to help you understand the potential problems and challenges and make sure you build around.

If sometimes I want people to learn little mistakes. Yes, because then they know that there's a big mistake that could come and they're like, oh, wait a minute. This guy maybe was right. Cause if they don't make no mistakes, they, they, they don't feel they need an actor. Absolutely and pain is the best teacher and whether that's physical pain or economic pain, um, you, you learn quickly, but we, we help as, as consultants and guy, and as someone to guide you, we want to help you avoid that.

So obviously the design and the selection of the appropriate technology. Is really important. So once we have that, and that's kind of where a lot of people start, they come to us with kind of a plan in mind already. Well, this is what I want. I want this type of system and I want this. And so all the things that Nick and I have been talking about for the last half hour, all are sometimes missing.

So, so step back, whether you're a grower already or whether you're looking to grow and really spend some time there. So once we design everything, we, um, you know, recommend the appropriate technology. Now you have a plan. Now you can build a budget. Now you can do production projections, you can figure out what you expect to be producing in your tomato greenhouse.

And that's something that a lot of growers will do on their own. That's something as consultants and we can guide you through and give you, you know, realistic information. And then from there building your business model, uh, launching your business, um, is there, so we, you know, we are, the question I get to is, is it what's best?

Is it for-profit? Is it non-for-profit? Is it, uh, is it also employee owned? That's that's one that's been thrown around. Uh, that I, I personally liked that one. I liked the employee owned, uh, just because, I mean, look, for instance, like Johnny selects, right. Johnny seeds, right. Uh, they're a 100% employee owned in that companies, you know, Yeah.

So, so that business model obviously needs to be refined and identified in that early planning stages. So, um, now that's not to say that there aren't things in your business, even if you're established, that will change and you can evolve, certainly. And that's, that's, that's always happening, but the, the development of your business, the development of your model, the development of your technologies, Definitely much what's that pay the bills and what's going to generate too is very important, right?

It's not just, you know, it's not all about, Hey, we're going to save the world. Yes, that's nice. But you can't save the world with no. That. And that's an excellent point. And whether we're talking about, uh, we're working on a, a fairly large project in Torrington Connecticut right now, which is, uh, a nonprofit, um, but one of the most important parts that we've had to help the client dial in on is the economics.

Because regardless of your mission, whether you are looking to just, you know, have a career, make some money, Raise a family build a house, um, or you want to run a nonprofit and feed the homeless. You want to give people jobs. You want to put out more nutrition, whatever your goals are. All of those, even the best mission in the most noble mission falls apart.

If the economics are not there. So I've been, you know, I've been criticized in the past for focusing too much on the productivity of a system and the economics behind it, but that is the driver and face that folks. What's your preferred professional advice, which you recommend someone not to do hydroponic eggplants over hydroponic tomato.

Well, uh, I've seen people do with the specialty baby eggplants and do very well, but wow. I've never, I've never, I've never seen a farm do that. Wow. Okay. No, actually, yeah, the, the small round egg plants and then the, um, the Asian white eggplants, um, various, but again, you have to understand which markets are.

You have to understand that. Plant then how that plant likes to grow and what it likes and which is again, all part of that initial design, you know what it is sure. You would need to do pruning techniques to it too, as well. Right. And it's similar, but you know, to, to say pepper production, but there are some specific differences.

Yeah. Girls are a little bit different, right? Just a little bit different. A little bit, a little bit. Yeah. So, so if you think about. All of these things that Nick and I keep talking about, everything keeps going back to that design phase. Again, the often overlooked it's the not, it's not, it's not as sexy as looking at a shipping container or a vertical farm or a big hydroponic farm.

It's not as cool as that, but it is far more important. So everything we keep talking about, keep circling back to proper design. So I hope that's becoming evident in terms of its importance to all. But as I had said, economics are going to rule regardless of what you're doing. Um, so with that said, all of the factors that we've talked about have to be kind of baked into that cake.

And now we're looking at construction, we're looking at implementation, setting up the systems, setting up your infrastructure, actually setting up your physical business. That's something that many growers. They're either, you know, farmers or they they're business people, or they wanted to tackle that themselves.

They want to develop that. That's fine. There are a number of people and a number of companies that have done an excellent job doing that. But that's also something that professional guidance. If you're not clear, if you have concerns, that's something that's also very important and that's sometimes overlooked as well.

So this construction process itself is very. Complicated, uh, oftentimes coordinating site prep, regulatory issues, working with a municipality, bringing in infrastructure, you know, utilities, creating a usable site, deciding on the construction, contractors, uh, you know, everything, cap, OSHA, everything them.

Yeah. So that's, again, that's another, uh, component to the building a CA business that is often overlooked. I did a, uh, a YouTube video for M hydro related to the construction process and they kind of talk through all of these different processes and hurdles. Um, so it can get pretty complicated. I live in the right construction team is very crucial.

Yes, absolutely. Building a greenhouse. If you are hiring a contractor to build your say, build your greenhouse, having a contract that they can do it properly in a month and a half, and then another contractor who will do it, not so well. And take five months, the economics of that. Staggeringly different.

So understanding that working with greenhouse companies that have partner contract, because most greenhouse companies will not build a greenhouse for example, but they do have contractors that they work with who are skilled in their companies like G and V. Yeah, absolutely. Julie. Yeah, Julie, uh, one of our previous guests, you know, GNV is an excellent resource and an amazing company and they will come in and they can manage the project.

So in a lot of cases, having that professional help. We'll save you so much time and so much money. And I've always kinda been one of those believers in doing things yourself and saying, well, I can't afford to hire this expert. And I hate to sound like a used car salesman who says Butch, you can't afford not to use it, but in, you know, in this application with, with CA technologies and the significant investments that you have, having that expert guide.

Pays for itself many, many times over mistakes can be very costly. Delays can be very costly. So very important to, to if you are not skilled or experienced in that aspect. Very important to at least. Yeah. And in the network that, uh, um, that the, that the consultant brings to the client is just priceless. I mean, you got to think about the network that we have, uh, you know, You know, 20 years, it took you over 35 years to get to this point where we're at in our career.

So we do bring that along with, uh, with, with all of our, uh, knowledge. Sure. Yeah. Okay. So congratulations. You've got your greenhouse built. You have your systems in place. You have your warehouse or packing house. Um, you know, you may be a small little, um, backyard grower. You may be a large commercial scale, but you're basically ready to go.

So, you know, do you have any experience to grow? Have you grown before? Have you learned enough? Have you watched Nick's YouTube videos? Have you watched M Hydro's YouTube videos? All of those things are very valuable and very important. Understanding your grow process is going to be important. And so getting started again, if you, if we're working with a client, for example, that has a good amount of knowledge, but even has some gaps there.

They're not quite sure how to train their employees. They're not, uh, unsure of food safety, um, uh, requirements in their area. Then again, we can step in and guide you through that. We've we've provided Gotham greens. Jenna prime mark was on our podcast. She was awesome. So Gotham is a well-established and very experienced growing company.

They would call us and they would need a system and they would tell us what they wanted and we would send them the system. And that's it, you know, wash your hands of it. They, they take it from here. Conversely, other companies, um, trends in Connecticut and new opportunities that we're working. They have, um, excellent people, but no experience in controlled environment agriculture.

So we're providing a SOP standard operating procedure, growing methodology for them, ongoing prop production consulting. Um, we have IPM consultant, production consultants, people that will help guide through and avoid a lot of the potentially disastrous mistakes that someone has. Experienced in commercial production can face.

So once, right. Some of these partnerships last longer than, than a year or months, I mean, do you have some partnerships that go on. Oh, certainly we, I mean, and, and before I, I don't want people to start getting worried and say, oh my gosh, they're recommending that we pay this consultant for years and years.

No. So a good consultant who will help you through the different processes. And if you have specific needs, they work with you. But the entire goal is it's very much like if you have a, uh, a young time. Who was learning to walk you're, you know, at first you're holding that toddler upright and helping them slowly, but surely if you're doing your job correctly, they will slowly take a few steps and you kind of just steady them.

And then from there they start walking and then they, then they run and that we approach our clients. So our goal is to as quickly as possible, ramp them up with experience and knowledge. So the goal is when we're working with say a client who needs growing guidance, overall we're training, the goal is to immerse them in it, give them as much assistance as needed.

But to be able to start stepping away. And it's very incremental now with M hydro projects. We have customers that we have been working with for years. We don't charge them for consultant every time consulting. Every time they call, we have growers all the time. We're dedicated to making sure grows is successful.

So we have never stopped. Working with clients. Um, again, we've got growers that have been growing for 15 years now and may still call once in a while with some particular challenge or need some advice on a variety. And that's what we do. So when we work with a specific consulting client that we've helped design and implement our bill, build their systems, we never leave.

So. Once you're growing we're with you forever. And, uh, and that's going to, one of the things that we pride ourselves on, you know, creating successful growers. I know you do that as well. So, so really the idea is to be involved as little as possible. Um, the consulting or the training is comparatively a small piece.

I do, I do have one story though, Joe, that I had to. I want it to help this person so bad, Joe, I really did deep in my heart, you know, and, and God be the witness that I really did, did try with all my might to make it work. And, you know, and I've told the person that look, I really don't do projects like this.

You know, it was, it was a project of just reading light, taking a light meter, reading the levels of light that her garden was getting. So she can make an argument that if they built a building in front of her, then this is how much light's going to is going to get lost. And now all the garden's going to die.

Right. So in order to make that argument, she needs the light reading. So I'm teaching her and how to do this. And she, she wanted him all my time. She wanted to call me, she wanted to talk to me for an hour. She was sending me long text messages, long emails, you know? And I mean, Joe, I'm a nice guy. I'm going to keep going and going.

And it's like, wait a minute. I can't do this no more. It was starting to eat up into time that I had to give my clients. So then I was like, I have to tell her. So I had to tell her, no, I I'm sorry. I can't move further. No more. Well, fortunately, most growers are very independent minded and they don't want to rely on, uh, too much of your time with too much of your health.

Unfortunately, occasionally can get people like that, um, to that point, uh, and again, to segue. So now you have followed our advice. You worked with us, you we've designed your operation, you built it and you're up and running. You're successful. You're doing well. So whether you, as an experienced grower have questions or whether, uh, people listening to this now who maybe they're just, I'm interested in the industry, maybe they're thinking about getting into the industry at some point, maybe they're researchers and teachers.

There's always going to be questions. Nick and I were talking off air about, uh, setting up a Reddit, uh, account. To take more questions. Uh, people email us all the time and of course we encourage you to continue. We're compiling a list of our best and most relevant questions, and we're going to try to address them in a couple of upcoming episodes.

Um, so we encourage that. We're also when we are at indoor ag. Um, coming up later this fall, we're going to be talking to a lot of people. So we're home we're going to do is I'm going to take pictures of, of people's systems. So please start sending in your pictures of your systems, we're going to, we're going to show them to the experts and we're going to have a lot of the experts, critique other people's systems and just kind of, uh, have fun with it.

Yeah, because really the industry is only going to grow effectively. If we all work together, support each other, help each other out and improve the quality of the systems, improve the quality of the crops and prove the consistency, et cetera. So, you know, as we move forward, Um, that discussion these questions and answers.

We're going to do another, uh, on the podcasts upcoming. We're going to also do a growers round table and our researcher and teachers round table, and we're going to have people, um, having those discussions. So what you're interested in you, particularly, what you want to know about is really important. So, um, please continue.

Um, Nick, Nick greens.com joe@mhydro.com are great ways to get in touch with. Um, our social media, obviously, um, both Nick and I post a lot of stuff all the time. You can go on and post questions. I don't know. I don't know if I ever told you, but I just wanted to kind of just tell you right now though, I appreciate your friendship, man.

And I remember that first day we met and, and I knew that we were going to be friends. So just wanted to make sure that, you know, that lack in Chicago and that's likewise, my friend. So I appreciate that. And, and Mortein 2014, we met. That was a long time. Now you're showing your age. So. So anyway, so that was a kind of a long winded explanation of, of how we go through a process, but really it's, it's critically important to, to look regardless of who you are, regardless of what your actual situation is to, to develop a CA program based on.

Certain criteria and doing it appropriately and building from there. And I can promise you that if you follow those steps, if you follow that process, um, you're going to be in a much stronger position, have a much better, um, chance and being very successful in the industry. So. We, we look forward to talking with you further, we look forward to more of your questions.

We look forward to seeing you at events, um, coming up in the near future. So, um, we thank you for your time today. Um, Nick, any parting words for, uh, uh, you know, uh, I think I'll answer my own question that I asked everyone, you know, what would I tell a younger version of myself? That's right. I would say keep rocking on.

There you go. All right. Good advice from Mr. Greens. All right. So thanks very much everyone for your time. We appreciate you spending some time with us. Um, please keep in contact with us and we'll have more. Uh, so we have some really interesting guests coming up in the next few weeks. So we're looking forward to spending some time with you and, uh, talking about all things, controlled environment agriculture.

So in the meantime, thanks very much for joining us here on the poly greens podcast. And we hope you have a great day and look forward to talking with you soon. Yeah.