March 01, 2024

High-Tech State-of-the-Art Strawberry Propagation Greenhouse in North America

EZ Grow Farms, Expectations VS. Experience, Part 1

Dusty Zamecnik, the General Manager of EZ Grow Farms joined us for an interview, to talk about the exciting changes taking place at his company at the moment. He is the first client to buy Growtec’s gutters, Robur’s spraying booms, and MJ-Tech’s high-pressure fogging system, in one deal from the three sister companies.

“EZ Grow is our family business. When you say the company name out loud, people think we are called Easy Grow. I always stress that these are the letters E and Z because our job is definitely not easy,” Dusty introduced himself and the company. The name originated from Dusty’s late grandfather Ed Zamecnik; born from Slovakian immigrants who kicked off the company in the 1930s focusing on tobacco, and eventually a wide range of berries which then his father, Darryl, assumed the helm and began propagation in the 1990s. Dusty shared that for a short time, he was not involved with the family business, while he studied for his degree and worked for a large national brewery. Shortly after, he came back to his family’s legacy and is currently involved with everything that is happening on-site, “We are still a tight company that has been growing with the industry; we went from producing 100,000 plants to now raising 25,000,000+ for customers across North America. Therefore, being the General Manager means quite literally, managing generally everything.” Nowadays, EZ Grow Farms is a major strawberry plant material supplier in North America, especially along the Eastern seaboard of the Southern USA. Dusty concluded the introduction, “We started focusing on the plants and our passion first of all, and the rest followed. These plants are our lives, and we strive daily to get better.”

EZ Grow has been going through exciting days lately, expanding production indoors in a high-tech state-of-the-art greenhouse. “We have 6.5 acres of retractable roof greenhouse, 18.5-acre glass greenhouse, and outdoor production where we raise strawberry daughters, which supply production facilities in, among others, Florida, where we cover between 9 to 12% of the strawberry growers there. The latter is a great motivation for putting a state-of-the-art glass greenhouse with all the best technologies inside. We needed to have greater flexibility, and we were limited without it for the earliness of production and other aspects such as even light distribution. Switching to this high-tech facility so we are getting active CO2, applying high-pressure fogging, and in general having equipment that will help us grow higher-quality starting materials, it all comes back to our goal, having independent from the outdoor conditions, stable and high-quality production.” Dusty continued, “The goal of this investment is to provide ultimate flexibility in delivery timing, giving our customers the confidence that they are looking for in the plant that they receive. Having a greenhouse potentially standing empty for periods of time is not ideal, so we might look into other alternatives involving other berries. Another alternative is in case we have clients that would need starting materials in December/January, then we will consider lights and grow year-round. At the moment we are not concerned about those aspects, but we make sure to follow the industry and stay flexible as we have been since inception.

Growtec Gutter System

EZ Grow Farms decided to install the Hoisting gutter system, which will allow them to move the gutters on necessity, up and down. This system is more costly than fixed gutters but allows for a more efficient cultivation operation. “While in the Netherlands, and the EU in general, Juneberries are more often cultivated, we have had to take the Dutch systems and adapt them to North America, where we mostly grow day-neutral ever-berries. This means we had to utilize a system and a way to quite literally cut and handle millions of plants, almost all in the ‘same spot,’ because the industry wants the plants in a tight window.” Dusty shared how grateful he is for the Dutch nurseries for welcoming him to look around and learn from their experience, “It was their open doors and our internal trials. These combined led us to decide that the Hoisting was the best choice for our facility. Once this decision was made, we knew we had to reach out to Growtec. In the end what really important is the product quality and the people coming with it, the relationships. I am forever thankful to Freddy Sarkis, Growtec’s President, and the rest of the team, for putting the time in, and always being supportive and invested. Freddy has an impressive track record behind him, so no doubt the confidence is there.”

In this article we focus on Dusty’s expectations, so we discussed these for the gutter system. “One of our main expectations and goals with the hoisting system is to make the work easier for our employees. Being able to bring the crop to the people to handle, and not having to rely on ladders, but just ‘get in and get out,’ working with the crop easily, is the main expectation for this system.” Dusty also mentioned that having the crop higher also has its benefits, but to be able to do that, the greenhouse’s height had to be adapted, “An important aspect that we would not have been able to change if we would start the greenhouse construction before we have chosen the gutter system. The height of the greenhouse is important here, we have to avoid condensation from the misting system when the plants are hanging at the top part of the greenhouse, so making sure the plants are not too close to the greenhouse roof is key.”

Dusty concluded the discussion about the gutters with financial consideration. “The hoisting system’s price was an important consideration for us because unlike production facilities, which would be utilizing the movements of the system quite often, we had limited movements per year, so we had to find and confirm the balance between the cost of production and the investment. Will we save enough on work? Will it be financially feasible? The truth is that we were not sure. Nevertheless, with the help of the Growtec team, we were able to find an appreciable approach that made this system economically affordable.”

MJ-Tech High-Pressure Fogging System

“At the moment we are at 55% humidity, and I want to plant at 70%” Dusty shared with excitement, “I am really looking forward to trying these. I will need to learn how to maximize the high-pressure fogging system not only for the humidity side of it but also for the cooling. In case we face a hot period of around 15 days with over 30°C possibly before delivery, having no high-pressure fogging system would mean the plants would turn vegetative and there would be no flowers. Such a thing will result in a delayed production cycle for the growers, meaning no early fruit. Having the tools to help limit these periods should prove to be fruitful. That is why having this option and knowing how to operate the cooling capacity correctly with the MJ-Tech system is a priority.”

Robur Spraying Boom

Dusty stated that their investment in Robur’s spraying booms was much more than the needed minimum, “How do you get a plant that comes from a cutting to look like it came from a seed or was grafted? That is what our customers are expecting, and we invest to deliver. Every single plant is provided with a boom to provide 100% coverage. No overlap and no misses, but equal and uniform irrigation and flexible operation. It did not come easy, it forced us to have a bigger infrastructure because we needed that flexibility to water fast in the morning, get in, and get out, allowing the plants to have the entire day to dry out. Of course, with a new system like that, there will be a learning curve to learn the new system and how to operate it. We are committing to people who are going to have this knowledge and ability to operate it, with flexibility and precision to make a difference here.

 “We are not perfect, at least not yet, but the technology and equipment we invested in are, so we are on the right path,” with this closing statement we moved on to discuss his experience working with three brands that are, in fact, sister companies.

Three in One

Even though the systems offered by Growtec, MJ-Tech, and Robur are not directly connected to one another, having the system from ‘one house’ has its perks! “Effectively having the portfolio of everything that I needed to come from one spot, with all the required knowledge and intelligence put all together, it really made it so much easier for me. In fact, I think that might be one of your greatest strengths “, Dusty shared about the unique experience. “Having a contact person or even a small team to support with three different systems, saves so much time on communication and explanations. They know everything about everything, I have to believe it also makes their lives easier to support and give me their best advice to make sure all systems operate the best way possible, not neglecting any. All that came with a high-quality, strong network, passion, confidence, and trusting relationship. It is something one should be forever thankful for. It is as simple as that, it motivates, and this collaboration just makes sense!”

In the photo, Brian Zimmermann and Dusty Zamecnik at EZ Grow, February 23rd, 2024

To conclude, Dusty looked into the near future, “We will always be open-minded, and clearly, we are actively willing to invest in new strategies for positive change. We might potentially look into the stone wool substrate in conjunction with peat, light, and propagation of other berries plants. We would want to have a small R&D site for our growers, so they could test their innovative ideas, so as a society, we will have a strong communication network. I believe it will help us cultivate better plants and advance the strawberry sector in North America, and we want to be a leading part of this movement. From our internal size, the business development goals we have are quality-focused; Having a stable clientele to which we can guarantee plant quality every year, reducing stress by raising their trust. We are not aiming to be the biggest plant provider, but we want to have good quality stable products and with that, satisfied customers!”

As mentioned, Dusty chose to install at the newest EZGrow Farms’ greenhouse Growtec’s gutters, Robur spraying booms, and MJ-Tech’s high-pressure fogging system. We thought it would be interesting to ask him about his experience collaborating with our team until now and the expectations for the systems, before he had the chance to actually work with them. Next, our teams will be there to support Dusty during the cultivation process, and we will be back with a second release following this article at the end of the season, where Dusty will share with us his experience; Were his plans easy to follow? Did everything work according to his expectations? Is he satisfied with all decisions or would he have done something differently?, and more. Therefore, please make sure to follow us on the social media platforms of Growtec, MJ-Tech, and Robur, to stay up to date and hear the rest of Dusty’s story.


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