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US (VA): High-tech greenhouse in Dublin plants 30,000 tomatoes

US (VA): High-tech greenhouse in Dublin plants 30,000 tomatoes

After about a year, one of the largest high-tech greenhouses in North America is planting its first tomatoes in Dublin.

One of the first things noticeable about the sprawling property is the nearly million square feet of glass covering nearly 20 acres of tomatoes.

Just off Route 100 in Dublin is where Mexico-based Red Sun Farms is staking its claim in America. That starts with planting nearly 30,000 hydroponic tomato plants on some 12 acres.

“Fifteen thousand today and 15 thousand tomorrow,” said John Secker, is Red Sun Farms’ master grower. Secker and his ”for now” small crew are doing all that planting by hand.

“It’s very technical. All the systems here are automated other than the plant care, that has to be done with people,” Secker said. “But all my irrigation, heating, ventilation we’ll have energy screens in the winter, tried to reduce our energy costs. That’s all automated.”

Red Sun says its tomato plants, when ready, will supply customers in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Jay Abbott is Director of Operations for Red Sun Farms.

“I think what makes this so different is that you don’t typically see a high-tech greenhouse in the Mid-Atlantic states. It can be very hot, high humidity area. But the New River Valley is really unique in its growing climate,” Abbott said.

Today, Red Sun Farms says there are fewer than 10 Latin American workers on the property. Brought in to show the newer, local employees how to get the process going.

Red Sun says the first harvest should be ready around October.

When asked about genetically modified foods, Abbott said, “Beyond being certified organic, (Red Sun Farms) will also be certified for the entire greenhouse as a non-GMO greenhouse. We as a company do not use GMO seed.”

Red Sun signed an agreement with several local governments, towns, cities and counties that it will hire as many as 205 full-time workers. The average hourly wage is about $ 12 an hour.


Publication date: 8/1/2014