Petals and Produce awarded $9,000 grant

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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For the Washington Daily News

Petals and Produce, a local business specializing in horticulture and agriculture, has been awarded a $9,000 grant to upgrade their greenhouse heating system. The UMO AgPrime Grant, aimed at supporting agricultural initiatives, will fund the expansion of their current system at the Pinetown location.

Co-owner Tom VanStaalduinen shared that the grant will enhance their existing 12,000 square feet of greenhouse space, which primarily uses pine wood waste for heating. 

“Ninety percent of our heat is generated through wood waste,” said VanStaalduinen. “To try and get it closer to 100%, we are adding a five to eight thousand gallon storage tank that we will insulate so that during the day we can pre-heat it to help us get through the night without having to supplement with liquid propane.”

The upgraded system, which will be purchased used, will allow for five to six hours of stored heat. This will be crucial for maintaining a minimum temperatures in greenhouses, particularly for their tomato crops. The goal is to rely solely on their wood waste system, reserving liquid propane for emergencies.

“This is a way to expand its capacity without having to upgrade the system,” VanStaalduinen explained.

Petals and Produce’s system, which operates on water, wood and air, converts 1,200-degree heat into 300-degree exhaust. The company installed this wood-burning heating system about 15 years ago, becoming one of the first in North Carolina to adopt such an environmentally friendly method.

The system, with minimal emissions, pumps water into the greenhouses, where radiators and fans regulate the temperature. VanStaalduinen expects to receive the funds this spring, with hopes of having the new system installed before winter.

The UMO AgPrime Grant, funded by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, supports innovative agricultural projects across the state, aiming to enhance farm sustainability and profitability.