Atlas Greenhouse Sees Growing

Senior Editor Barbara Kieker with GrowingGeorgia Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Concerns over food safety and water conservation are driving more growers to
cover their crops, according to Mark Davis, owner of Atlas Manufacturing.
Many commercial growers are installing greenhouses in response to grocery
buyer demands.  At the same time, many families are installing backyard
greenhouses to grow their own produce and flowers.

“While our home business was down in 2010, overall we had a very good year
given the state of the economy,” Davis said.  “Buyers continue to encourage
growers to cover their crops especially blueberries and blackberries.”

Founded in 1986, Atlas Manufacturing designs, manufactures and installs
greenhouses and metal buildings.  Greenhouses range from 1,000 square foot
backyard structures to up to 10,000 square feet for commercial use.
 Commercial greenhouses are the company’s bread and butter, according to
Davis. In addition to greenhouses for commercial, retail, educational and
hobby growers, the company also offers accessory items such as bench and
curtain systems.

Atlas metal buildings range from small sheds to large commercial buildings
such as a blueberry packing shed.  The company operates in 80,000 square
feet of sales, manufacturing and warehouse space in their facility located
in southern Georgia.  It serves customers in all 50 states as well as
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

*Growing more under protection*
According to the 2009 Census of Horticultural Specialties released in Dec.
2010 by USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service, sales of food crops
grown under protection in the U.S. more than doubled in the last decade.
 Sales of fruits and vegetables in hothouses as well as transplants for
commercial vegetable production increased 149 percent since the 1998 census.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has helped support some of this growth
through its National Resource Conservation Service program funding the
installation of high tunnels, which can extend the growing season.  The
three-year pilot program is designed to determine the effectiveness of high
tunnels in conserving water, reducing pesticide use, maintaining vital soil
nutrients and increasing crop yields.  In 2010, the NRCS provided $13
million for more than 2,400 seasonal high tunnels in 43 states.  The program
is part of the Know your Farmer, Know your Food initiative to connect
farmers and consumers, strengthen local and regional food production,
increase the use of sustainable ag practices and promote the consumption of
local, fresh food.

“Atlas was on the preferred vendor list for the NRCS program and we sold
quite a few high tunnels.  It was a shot in the arm for us,” Davis

*Well positioned relative to ag trends*
The greenhouse industry is well positioned to take advantage of several
trends impacting agribusiness. Food safety and quality concerns increased
following several well-publicized scares involving tomatoes, eggs and peanut
butter.  As a result, buyers for grocery stores are pressuring growers to
use greenhouses to maintain higher quality standards.  In addition, food
safety concerns have prompted many homeowners to grow their own vegetables.
 A backyard greenhouse makes vegetable gardens easier to maintain and more
likely to yield a satisfactory crop.

Environmental concerns about ag chemicals are driving greater interest and
demand for organic produce. “Many organic foods especially lettuce and
tomatoes are greenhouse products,” Davis said.

Finally, concerns about water consumption are prevalent in drought-prone
agricultural areas like Georgia.  According to Davis, greenhouses enable
farmers to “grow so much more in a small area with controlled water use.”

The promising outlook for greenhouse demand bodes well for Atlas
Manufacturing.  Now in its 25th year, the company has extensive experience
across a wide range of structure sizes and uses.

“Our goal on every project is to deliver quality products at affordable
prices,” Davis said.

More information on Atlas Greenhouse is available at
www.atlasgreenhouse.comor call 1-800-346-9902.

Dr. Teri Hamlin
North Region Agriculture Education
Georgia Department of Education
204C Four Towers University of Georgia
Athens, Ga 30602
706-552-4461 / 706-540-0032
[log in to unmask]