Waco hydroponic startup finds statewide success in lettuce business – wacotrib. com_ farm and ranch

A former gymnast with an MBA and a hipster mustache he’s growing for “Movember,” he’d be at home at a West Coast social media startup. High profit items His footwear of choice for work is skate shoes.

But with his new hydroponic greenhouse operation in South Waco, the Richardson native and Baylor University graduate is pushing the boundaries of Texas agriculture.


Since it started in spring 2015, Urban Produce has established a reputation as a successful supplier of Texas lettuce, grown year-round on floating rafts of foam insulation.

The company is providing about 6,000 heads of lettuce a week for H-E-B supermarkets locally and around the state, as well as selling to restaurants and food wholesalers, including Sysco.

It’s all done in a greenhouse of about one-sixth of an acre on South 12th Street Road, but it produces as much as an 11-acre conventional farm, Reynolds said. Products with high profit margins Now the company is preparing in 2017 to quadruple its size and capacity.

“We started with three questions: What is our price point, who are our customers and is it possible to grow lettuce in Texas?” Reynolds said. High profit low cost business ideas “This is just a small pilot to prove that. Low cost high profit items We can’t keep up with demand. Low cost high profit business in india We get more money per head than we expected.”

If the phrase “Texas lettuce” seems unfamiliar, there’s a reason. What products have high profit margins More than 90 percent of the lettuce eaten in Texas comes from California, Reynolds said.

Lettuce takes about 50 days to grow and needs weather that is neither freezing nor hot. Small business with low investment and high profit in india By late spring, lettuce grown in Texas tends to start “bolting,” or sending up a flower stalk, and turns bitter.

A hydroponic greenhouse solves that problem by allowing growers to control the temperature of both the air and the water. Small business with high profit margin Urban Produce uses a chiller to keep the water at about 65 degrees and evaporative coolers to keep the air below 80 degrees.

Reynolds said only five Texas producers are growing lettuce indoors, mostly using a film technology that’s cheaper than the “deep water” rafts Urban Produce uses.

Urban Produce spent between $800,000 and $1 million to construct the facility at a former concrete truck washout, including big investments in utilities, as well as pumps, ultraviolet sterilizers, vacuum-powered seed planters and grow lights.

Reynolds and his father, Tony Reynolds, partnered on the venture with Waco-based Rydell Capital, which is focused on start-up ventures. Companies with high profit margins Gib Reynolds said Rydell, which is headed by Ryan Gibson, Chris DeLeenheer and Waco City Councilman Dillon Meek, was key to making the venture work, but his family intends to buy out Rydell’s stake.

He said the key to success is twofold: efficiency and freshness. High profit items to resell California lettuce is usually about 10 to 14 days old before it arrives on the shelves in Texas. Small business with low investment and high profit Urban Produce lettuce, which comes with the roots attached, will last up to three weeks after purchase, he said. Small business high profit in india The supermarket cost is about $3 to $3.50 a head, he said.

“It’s 50 cents to a dollar more than other lettuce, but people will pay more for better, fresher stuff,” Gib Reynolds said. High profit margin “If you taste our product, it’s different.”

Glenn Espinosa, executive chef at 135 Prime, the upscale Hewitt Drive steakhouse, agrees. High profit service business He stops by weekly to pick out his own mix of lettuces for his salads, choosing among a variety of romaine, buttercrunch, frisee and red oak leaf lettuces, all at various stages of development.

“It’s beautiful,” Espinosa said. Low investment high profit business in delhi “You can get them alive. Low cost business ideas with high profit in india They pull the plants and leave the roots on so they keep longer. High profit business in india Other lettuces will go bad in a couple of days.”

“Everybody’s trying to go local, because you see what you’re getting and you get to talk to the farm,” Espinosa said. Low cost high profit “Just because it’s local doesn’t mean it’s good. Items with high profit margins But these guys know what they’re doing and care how they grow it.”

The system uses a swimming pool pump that recirculates a specially formulated nutrient mixture four times a day. High profit home business Seedlings are started in tiny cubes that later are transferred into the floating rafts.

Artificial lighting supplements natural light, and an LED grow light provides ultraviolet radiation that is needed to keep red oak leaf lettuce red.

“Frankly, all the innovation is in the marijuana industry,” he said. Small scale business with high profit in india “That LED light is the first cost-effective one that’s been available, and that’s totally marketed to pot farmers. High profit online business We’re probably the only business like this they deal with.”

“The cool thing about this is that it’s all science,” he said. High profit products to sell online “It’s expensive to grow food this way, but it’s so efficient. High profit industries We’re convinced this model or something like it is the way food is going to be produced in the future.”

Matt Hess, executive director of World Hunger Relief Inc., is used to growing and selling produce with more traditional methods, but he has toured the hydroponic greenhouse and is impressed with its low ecological footprint. Small business with high profit Still, he doubts hydroponics will replace soil agriculture.

“Overall, it seems to be promising,” he said. High profit farming “It’s very intensive in terms of capital, and it’s not necessarily something that anybody could do. . . . Low investment business with high profit Another thing about lettuce is that it’s tasty and good for you, but if you’re in a subsistence environment, lettuce is a luxury item.”

Gib Reynolds had no experience in agriculture a few years ago when his father approached him with the idea of hydroponics. High profit selling Tony Reynolds was getting out of a technology firm and became interested in the possibility of growing hydroponic tomatoes.

Gib Reynolds studied the idea through a project at business school but concluded the market for hydroponic tomatoes was already too developed, so he began studying lettuce.

“He was a gymnast in high school, so he was in the gym 20 hours a week,” he said. High profit business ideas “And on Saturday afternoon I could walk by his room and he’d be doing his homework.”

“This was not my long-term plan, and it’s still not really my long-term plan,” he said. High profit greenhouse crops “But the fact that I’m doing food that’s good, I have a chance to employ some people and I’m not at a computer all day — I’ve found way more benefit and enjoyment in it than I expected.”

“I take so much pride in this product,” he said. High profit business in malaysia “I can defend it and know we’re doing it the best way. High profit margin products to sell on ebay It is farming, and I know we’re not farmers. Low investment business with high profit in india But it’s rewarding and it’s beautiful.”

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