June 17, 2024

The Story of How Nature Fresh Farms® is Growing Organic Strawberries on a Two-Level Swing Gutter System in Ohio, USA; Idea, Implementation, Challenges, and Future Goals.

Established in 1999, Nature Fresh Farms is one of the largest vertically integrated leaders in greenhouse-grown produce in North America, producing both organic and conventional varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and strawberries.

For this article, we interviewed Octavio Rodriguez Director of Growing Operations of Nature Fresh Farms’ Ohio facility, and Jose Agustine Ramirez Zamudio, Head Grower.

“The decision to grow Organic Strawberries in Ohio was a business differentiator; it allowed us to become the first company in North America with forty-five acres of organic cultivation of strawberries,” Octavio shared.

As with all crops Nature Fresh Farms grows, extensive trial testing was done prior to production to determine optimal growing conditions leading to the selection of the Growtec Two-Level Swing Gutter System for cultivation of the company’s Organic Strawberries.

“We did extensive trial testing that included testing various, gutter systems gutters,” both Octavio and Jose shared. “The Two-Level Swing gutter system was a growing system choice based on production, plant health, and numerous other metrics that were tested”.

Conducting trials prior to production had its benefit, affording the team crucial information they were able to take into consideration when building their facility, including light penetration, planting density, and irrigation. “It is important to keep in mind the light penetration differences between the top and bottom gutters,” explained Rodriguez. “Light is lower to the bottom level than the top, which means you have to adapt your density and irrigation of the bottom gutter”.

With the growing system decided, the next step was cultivation.

“Cultivation and growth is going well,” noted Ramirez Zamudio. Additionally, the team is utilizing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, which allows us to use good biologicals such as ladybugs, to fight pests such as aphids, and a bioreactor to supply nutrients to plants to aid in the production of their Organic Strawberries.

Looking ahead, the team at Nature Fresh Farms is future-oriented, “this year was our first season,” Octavio explained, “we have learned and improved and we are ready for next season’s opportunities.”


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