Undercover Horticulture Ltd. is a budding biobusiness that provides managed greenhouse space for researchers who are looking for smart solutions for their crop management. The company is run by siblings Chris and Rachel Buhler, who use their experience and knowledge to provide a unique, full-service greenhouse for a variety of cliental.
The fully managed greenhouse space can be rented by anyone who needs to grow crops for any kind of experiment. This can include businesses that need space and services to try out the market, for seed breeding, or to conduct genomic studies.
Chris sees two problems in the current market that he hopes to provide a solution for. First, the 24-hour care that plants need can be costly for organizations who must hire additional staff to monitor crops. Undercover Horticulture can provide both monitoring services and growing space for clients, which helps reduce economic cost. This also helps to address the second problem – time.
The company’s full-service greenhouse helps to ease pressure felt by research companies or agriculture start-ups who need plants grown within specific parameters. The services offered by Undercover Horticulture allow researchers to focus on the science, rather than having to focus on day-to-day plant monitoring tasks or worry about environmental conditions.
“We recognize that how you water a crop affects it. We are skilled growers. We have been doing it for over 12 years and we have research training and the background,” says Rachel.
Undercover Horticulture strives to understand its clients’ needs and often builds custom setups, tailoring the environment to ensure these needs are met. Plant monitoring is continuous, day and night.
During the day, the greenhouse is monitored by the Undercover Horticultre staff. At night, an automated computer system ensures that the environment is perfect for plant health. If the computer detects a change in the environment outside of the normal range it will alert the team, who can respond within 10 minutes.
“We’re 24/7 on call,” Rachel says. “Holidays, long weekends, Sundays – it doesn’t matter, someone is always there.”
Undercover Horticulture has a half-acre greenhouse that can be devoted to the needs of its clients. The team can build custom grow tables and fine tune the environment for a variety of plant production and can fertilize multiple crops with fertilizers tailored to plants’ needs.
The space can be divided to ensure that unique demands of different crops are met. Zones within the greenhouse are heated individually by an automated system, creating environmental conditions unique to each crop’s needs. While the greenhouse has a gas-powered heater that is used for backup, the main heat source is powered by discarded wood that Chris and Rachel recover from the landfill. Undercover Horticulture aims to reuse whatever materials it can to decrease its environmental impact.
Working with companies in the agriculture research industry is exciting for Chris and Rachel. Rachel’s background is in plant research and she brings that knowledge to the operations of Undercover Horticulture. The in-house expertise provides companies with reliable management of their crop and intimate knowledge of plant care.
The pair also have experience working with a variety of hydroponic systems and use that knowledge to create custom made spaces. This allows Undercover Horticulture to tend to the needs of a variety of crops, including strawberries, amaranth, cereals, Brassica seeds, corn, and potatoes. Over the past decade, Chris and Rachel have grown over 30 different types of crops, helping to establish a broad knowledge base that is beneficial to their clients.
“Saskatchewan has a lot of specialized ag and bio research going on and we are very excited to play a role in that. We can help facilitate that research; this is a way we can complement that industry,” Chris says.
As trained technicians who have built their business from the ground up, Chris and Rachel strive to keep up with industry knowledge and are constantly growing their skill set.
Undercover Horticulture is taking part in the Building Entrepreneurial Leadership program hosted by Ag-West Bio. This six-month training program is designed to help established companies gain new skills and resources. Chris and Rachel are looking forward to growing the future of their company and hope to play an active role in assisting Saskatchewan based researchers and developers with their crop needs.