– We’re Sustainable Harvesters. What you’re standing in isabout 12,000 square feetof controlled environmentgreenhouse space. In this space, we can growup to 7,000 heads of lettuce,in every week, utilizing growingtechniques called Aquaponics. We grow a bunch of different varietiesof leafy green lettuces,and we distribute that to restaurantsall throughout Houston, San Antonio,Austin, Dallas and even in Louisiana,including New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Sustainable Harvesters was really formedout of the necessity and the needfor fresh and local producein the Houston market specifically. We noticed that there was new restaurantspopping up left and right,and all of them always had a geartowards local, fresh,and sustainable producethat they were sourcing from. When we dove deeper, we realizedthere was only a few partnersactually supplying these restaurantsand these chefs with theproducts they needed. That’s why we landed on growing lettuce. Every restaurant has a salad,and every chef really likesa fresh, new looking green. We seed all of our lettuce by hand,and we start them on thesegrow trays right here. So, this grow tray has 162 spotsof a one and one inch cube that weultimately put one seed inand let ’em germinatein the dark for about two days. After that time period, they have accessto the sunlight. They’re gonna grow their first leafand specifically withlettuce, that first leafis called a radical. So, once they hit that radical stage,we bring ’em into the sunlightand we ultimately leave’em under LED lightsfor about two to three weeks. When they get to about this sizeor a little bit youngeror a little bit older,we actually bring these traysdown to the very back of the greenhousewhere each one of these will pop outon a bed of pegs exposingits cube’s material. This cube material ismade of 99% peat mosswith a 1% elastic polymer,giving it a sponge-like effect,allowing us to submergethis root structureinto water for the life of the product. So, the first stage inevery day is harvesting. Harvesting, is really the only thingthat we do, harvest and plant. And we try to do that assustainable as possibleby recirculating that water,by utilizing the wastewater that we collectto our compost beds,and really try and useas many efficienciesin labor and planting as possible. And so, when we were decidingwhat we should be called,we really thought about the two wordsthat make us different,or at least make us what we are,and that is Sustainableand that is Harvesters. When we do harvest in the morning,it’s as easy as pulling this entire boardout of the water and carefully bringing itto our food preparation areawhere we’ll ultimatelytake each one of theseheads of lettuce off of this boardby pulling them out, exposingjust a few of the badleaves that might be there. When we put these roots around this,it gives a shelf lifeof close to three weeksin your refrigerator. Now, when we remove the boards,we leave a gap up in the frontand then that allows usto push all the boardstoward us here, ourharvest area, and stacknew boards in the back utilizingour germination cubes. So, we’ll pack it in these traysthat we call our transfer trays,ultimately packing one varietyin each one of these traysgiving us the ability topack all seven varietieswith a couple of these and keep ’emin our cooler to crisp up. Then, it’s time to pack our lettuceand make our mixed cases. So, early on when we were really tryingto find that market for our products. We called upon Texas A&Mand Prairie View A&M,to come out and give usa little insight about farming. They looked at us andsaid, “You know, you two”are young folk. “You should really go home and check”out this new way offarming called Aquaponics. “That night we went home,Googled Aquaponics. The next day when we came out here,we looked at each other and we said,”This is our goal. “This is gonna be what we’re gonna try”and establish in this market. “So, now it’s really time to getinto the Aquaponics side,and what makes us differentthan most traditional growers out there. The basic definition of Aquaponicsis the combination between aquaculture,raising fish, our freshwater fish,in a controlled environment,and hydroponics which is growing plantsin a soilless environment. So, we utilize both ecosystems workingtogether to simultaneouslycreate the nutrientsand ultimately remove the nutrientsin the form of uptakingand growing their beautifulleafy green leaves. So, these tilapia are the real engineto our motor. They create that nutrient in its raw formcalled ammonia,and they create that byexcreting a waste productafter we feed them every day,two to three times. Our next filtration, our biofilters. These are a simple baffle systemthat separates out the solidsfrom the liquid ammoniaor broken apart ammonia. So after it removes its 50%,that other 50% of that wasteheads down to our second filterwe like to call our living filter. So that the water passingbelow this walkwayinto our grow beds isclean of any solid debrisand just really rich in ammoniawhich the plants can ultimately takeup in the form of that nitrate andremove it from the systembefore that water flows directly backto the lowest point in our systemwhere we equipped a pumpsending it eight feet directly aboveso that we can have freshwater going directlyto those fish tankscreating a closed looprecirculatory aquaculture systemby the scientific definition. In finding this land, we were really luckyin the fact that we could partnerwith the Houston Oaks Country Clubthat was gearing their menuand their entire members’ dinner and lunchservice to local, farmfresh grown produce. And that inspired us toreally build our greenhouseand really promote that awesomefarm to table experienceto a whole other level. Which we have a total of five greenhouses,12,000 square feet of working greenhouse,and the expansion ofanother 8,000 square feetcoming in this summer. After securing the land,we really noticed thatthe most important partabout our system is a level pad site. All of our water has to be levelso that we can flow it from a hundred feetfrom one side to the otherwithout having much variancein the depth of that water. So, starting with a very flat baseallows us to build upon that a verystructural system and a very efficientand ultimately sustainable system. A lot of hurdles in the beginning daysof Sustainable Harvesters weren’tso much with the system. It was really scalingup at the appropriatetime to supply the demand in the market. And so, we chose the12 varieties of lettucethat’re found nowhere in the market. And that includes our green butterhead,and red butterhead, green and red oakleaf,green and red lollorosa, our summer crisp,red and green romaine, and of course,everyone’s favorite, boston bibb. So, our baby lettuce isreally what we marketedand promoted to our restaurantsand they caught on like wildfire. So, the best advice, I believe,in starting any type ofagricultural enterpriseor entrepreneurial adventure isto really know your market. Reach out to your localcolleges of agricultureor even your chefs atyour local restaurantsand get their point of viewand their perspective. They will tell you the answersthat you need to know to start and buildup your initial business plan. Consistency is key,and so we are realisticwith these chefs but we’re alsoas consistent with them as possible. We’re gonna be here not only in the Winterand the great growingseasons of the Spring,but we’ll be there in the Summerwhen people want that salador in the Fall when they reallywant something fresh and healthyfor their diet. Food is medicine and growing a healthyand a fresh product for people to consumethat are really trying tobe as healthy as possiblereally gives me thepassion to keep on going. I think the most rewardingpart is going outto those farmers marketsand seeing these kidsand parents of these kidstry something new. As a kid, I never ate saladsand to see a kid grab a head of lettucethat might have never had a salad before,see those roots, get interestedabout the way it was grownand then ultimately follow that interestback to the kitchen,hearing those parents come backand say, “You havetransformed our kid’s diet. “I think that is one ofthe most rewarding partsof this system, andpart of this experiencethat we’ve been a part of. I think land is importantbecause you can’tcreate more of it. As we move closer and closerto the urban environments,there is less, less people livingin these rural environmentswhich means more and more foodneeds to be moved intothe urban environments. And so, a growingtechnique like Aquaponicsor Hydroponics allows you to really usea minimal amount of spaceto grow a maximum amount of produce. We are here for a short amount of time,but the land is here for eternity. It’s here for a large amount of timeand really, the thingsthat we do to it todayimpact it hundreds and hundreds of yearsdown the road. I think that it might not be visibleto see the damage that we’redoing to some of the land out there,but being mindful of thatand utilizing land foran original purpose like farmingor agriculture is somethingthat I think we need to move back towards. Having a care and a need for this landeven though we might not be utilizingit as much as we used to,we need to be proactiveand really be sustainable in all waysthat we have land management. LANDiO, LAND is OPPORTUNITY.