Prime Time International has been selling round and grape tomatoes grown in greenhouses and shade houses in Baja California and imported through Otay Mesa in Southern California, he said. This year, the company will add roma tomatoes.
Most of the company’s red, yellow and orange blocky bell peppers also are grown under protected agriculture.
The firm also grows in greenhouses in the U.S.
Learning curve and costs
Growing under protected agriculture comes with some challenges.
There is a learning curve involved in the process, and growers have to develop systems that work best for them, Maldonado said.
Growers for Apache Produce “went through ups and downs,” he said, but now they have good control over their growing processes.
Last year during a freeze, he said, “the greenhouses came out in very good shape.”
The initial investment in protected agriculture can be significant.
“Up-front costs are substantial,” Aiton said.
Growers must build structures that will last and help them achieve higher yields to make the program pencil out, he said.
Fortunately, protected agriculture usually attracts a premium price, Aiton said.
More than 90% of Del Campo Supreme’s acreage is protected agriculture, Cathey said.
The company labels field-grown and shade house-grown product differently from greenhouse product, Cathey said.
Del Campo Supreme grows roma tomatoes and red bell peppers in soil in shade houses.
“Because they’re not grown hydroponically, we refer to them as field grown, and we pack them in our Classic label, which is all of our field-grown product,” Cathey said.
“We do not view that product as being greenhouse grown because it’s being grown in the soil, but it’s being grown in a controlled environment,” he said.
The firm’s round, beefsteak, cluster, specialty and some grape tomatoes are grown hydroponically.
“Because we grow them hydroponically in a controlled environment, they are in our Reserve brand, and we refer to them as our greenhouse-grown product.”