Aeroponic greenhouse set for development near UNR

Founders of a company that plans to develop the first commercial-sized aeroponic greenhouse in the nation in Reno will be in town this week to pitch the idea to venture capitalists.

NewGardens LLC, a company headquartered at Beaverton, Ore., hopes to raise $1.7 million from investors at the annual Silver and Gold Conference, which draws venture capital firms from throughout the West.

The company plans a 33,000-square-foot aeroponic greenhouse at the Valley Road Field Laboratory operated by the Nevada Agricul-tural Experiment Station.

The University of Nevada, Reno Board of Regents has approved a lease with the company, which plans to work closely with the experiment station. The experiment station is the research arm of UNR's College of Agriculture, Biotech-nology and Natural Resources.

Bill Sobolewski, operation director for NewGardens, said the company expects to employ three students, and internship opportunities are part of the company's deal with UNR. NewGardens also expects to move its current three-person staff to Reno.

NewGardens plans to sell high-quality and rare tomatoes to high-end restaurants. Sobolewski said the company will provide just-in-time service to chefs, picking crops and delivering them the same day that an order is received. Ultimately, the greenhouse also might grow other vegetables including peppers, lettuce, basil and melons.

The company, which plans to sell its produce to restaurants within a 125-mile radius, initially planned to locate at Lovelock. It likes Nevada for its high elevation tomatoes respond well to cool nights and its low business taxes. It's also important, Sobolewski said, to be close to a large number of quality restaurants.

As Sobolewski talked about the company's plans with UNR researchers, he says it became more evident that a location near the campus would bring benefits to NewGardens as well as the university.

Ron Pardini, associate director of the experiment station, said the Reno location will give students hands-on experience with a new technology.

In the aeroponic greenhouse planned by NewGardens, the roots of the plants are suspended in mid-air and enclosed in a spraying box. Every two or three minutes, a computerized system turns on for a few seconds to spray a fine mist of nutrient solution over the roots.

The technology allows tomatoes to be grown organically year-round and produce fruit up to 50 percent faster than traditional farm techniques.

Sobolewski said the company expects to be operational within eight months after it nails down funding.

NewGardens LLC was created in 2005.


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