A dry, barren tract in central Utah will be producing 27 million pounds of tomatoes annually, beginning at the end of this year, if a new greenhouse project by Houweling’s Tomatoes is completed on schedule.
The company plans to sell 100% of its Utah crop within a 500-mile radius of the greenhouse, capitalizing on the national trend toward locally grown and filling a vegetable void in the region, said David Bell, chief marketing officer for the Delta, British Columbia-based Houweling’s.
“As soon as the ground thaws we plan to begin site preparation,” Bell said March 18. “We hope to break ground on Phase 2 in 2015. The entire project will be under lights so we can produce year-round.”
Each phase of the high-tech greenhouse complex in Juab County will include about 28 acres of growing space. The price tag for the first phase is $79 million and includes the costs of land acquisition, Bell said. As with its operations in British Columbia and California, the Utah site will use energy efficient technology.
However, unlike Houweling’s California greenhouse, the Utah complex will incorporate a concept that president Casey Houweling has been working on for several years.
Houweling’s is partnering with PacificCorp Energy and Rocky Mountain Power to siphon off waste heat and carbon dioxide from the Currant Creek Power Plant to keep its tomatoes warm and well fed.
“Casey has been looking at this type of operation for years and originally wanted the California greenhouse to use it,” Bell said. “Essentially we will add duct work to the (smoke) stack to capture and redirect the heat and CO2 to our facility.”
Heat and fertilizer are the No. 2 and No. 3 top costs for greenhouses, Bell said. The power plant is expelling enough hot air and CO2 to support four 28-acre greenhouses at the Utah site, he said. The Utah operation, which is in Juab County, is near the town of Nephi, about 75 miles south of Salt Lake City with good access to Interstate 15.
That access will help Houweling’s distribute its crop. Bell said the Utah operation, as with the other Houweling’s sites, will include packing facilities and a distribution center. The first phase is expected to create about 280 jobs. Bell said the plan is to have four greenhouses operating at the site within five years.
With each 28.3-acre greenhouse able to produce the equivalent of 900 field acres, Bell said the fully built Utah Houweling’s facility is expected to produce as many tomatoes annually as would come from 3,600 field acres.