Intergrow plans another expansion in Gaines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Greenhouse will add 7.5 acres, 10-15 jobs

Photos by Tom Rivers – Dirk Biemans is co-owner of Intergrow Greenhouses, which built its first 15-acre greenhouse in the town of Gaines in 2003. The company is planning another 7.5-acre greenhouse, bringing the total space to 55.5 acres.

GAINES – Intergrow Greenhouses is planning another expansion that will give the company 55.5 acres of greenhouses along Route 98 in Gaines. The new project, planned to start this summer and be ready for a November planting, will add 10 to 15 jobs to the site that already has 100 employees.

“We’ve been expanding,” said Dirk Biemans, co-owner of Intergrow. “Word has got out about Intergrow and it’s been a snowball effect.”

Intergrow first opened a greenhouse in Fillmore in Allegany County in 1998. The site continues to grow beefsteak tomatoes.

In 2003, Intergrow picked a flat piece of property at 2428 Oak Orchard Rd. for a new 15-acre greenhouse. The level land was ideal for the greenhouse, and the location within a 10-hour striking distance of major markets in New York, New England, and heading south and west.

“We tell our customers we pick it today and you’ll have it tonight,” Biemans said.

Intergrow currently has 100 employees, and expects to add 10 to 15 more with the expansion.

The tomatoes have proven popular, especially with a push for locally grown produce, sustainable agriculture and a quality product. Intergrow has expanded twice since the initial site in 2003 and now is planning on another 7.5-acre greenhouse this summer.

The company supplies Hannaford, Aldi, Wegmans, Whole Foods and other customers. Intergrow is seeing more demand for its tomatoes in Connecticut, Maryland, and the Carolinas, and that is fueling the need for the expansion, Beimans said.

“We’re gaining ground because of a consistent product and availability,” he said.

Intergrow grows tomatoes on the vine in near uniform shape and size. The tomatoes are grown hydroponically without soil in the ground.

Intergrow has tomatoes available nine months of the year. That compares to field grown tomatoes that tend to be available in the summer and early fall. The field crops are vulnerable to weather and pests.

Intergrow has a closed system. It captures rainwater that is used for irrigation. The company brings in hives of bees for pollination and will introduce some pests to control insects.

The vines are thick and workers will prune the plants to clusters of five. That produces five tomatoes that weigh about 28 ounces. Intergrow strives for consistent weight and appearance in the tomatoes.

Beimans said the weather can affect the crop when there are long stretches of overcast days. The tomatoes need sunlight to grow and ripen.

Biemans holds a cluster of five tomatoes that were picked this morning.

Intergrow has been hosting international students since 2001. They have come from every continent and many return to poor countries with a goal of helping their communities be more dependent in producing food.

“Most of them come from undeveloped countries,” Biemans said about the interns. “We feel it’s our obligation to teach and share our knowledge.”

The company won’t be expanding again in Gaines after the latest project because there won’t be any more open space on the company property. The newest expansion will be on the west end of the greenhouse complex.

Biemans hopes to plant the first tomatoes in the new greenhouses in November.

The expansion plan will go before the Orleans County Planning Board today at 7 p.m.

The greenhouses are located at 2428 Oak Orchard Rd. (Route 98)