Casey Houweling, Camarillo, CA – Greenhouse Tomato and Cucumber Farmer
Benefits of Greenhouse Farming
Casey Houweling owns and operates Houweling's Tomatoes, an innovative greenhouse tomato grower that uses highly advanced systems to create climatic conditions necessary to sustainably produce a variety of healthy, delicious tomatoes and cucumbers year round. Established in 1956 by Casey’s father, Cornelius, the company operates large-scale hydroponic greenhouses in Camarillo, Calif., Mona, Utah and Delta, British Columbia, Canada.
Year-round Tomato Production in California
Established in 1956, Houweling’s was originally a floral nursery in Canada. It was in 1985, after having been in the business since 1976, that he planted the first 6 acres of tomatoes and embarked on an aggressive expansion plan. Within 10 years, Houweling’s owned and operated 50 acres of hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, the first large-scale commercial greenhouse in the lower mainland of British Columbia, but the northern climate limited production to just eight months a year. Knowing he wanted to provide customers with the same high-quality product year-round, in 1996 Houweling purchased land in Camarillo, Ventura County, which sees more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Today, Houweling’s Tomatoes owns 125 acres of California land under greenhouse glass, equivalent to over 3000 in output of field acre production, becoming the first large-scale vegetable greenhouse in the state and producing tomatoes 52 weeks a year.
Innovative and Sustainable Farming
Throughout his decades of experience, Houweling has embraced the importance of sustainable farming. This includes adopting practices that preserve the land that Houweling’s farms on and ensures economic stability, even during times of drought.
He has introduced innovative practices to generate solar electric power and conserve water in the Camarillo greenhouse facility. Five acres of photovoltaic solar panels situated on the farm provides one megawatt of electricity to power facility operations. In terms of carbon dioxide reduction from conventional energy sources, Houweling’s is reducing carbon dioxide emissions equal to removing 300 cars from the road each year.
Houweling’s Tomatoes’ newest innovation is the installation of a 13.2 megawatt combined heat-and-power cogeneration technology - the first of its kind in the United States – generating enough electrical power for approximately 13,200 average homes, in which the majority is sold back to the electrical grid. It also captures traditionally wasted heat, water and carbon dioxide for reuse within the greenhouse for growing fresh tomatoes. The CO2 that is purified and piped into the greenhouse as fertilizer, diverts 21,100 tons of C02 yearly-equal to more than 6000 cars.
Beyond adoption of energy efficiency technologies, Houweling’s Tomatoes is also working to find ways to improve water use efficiency. The farm uses a four-acre retention pond to capture rainwater and runoff before filtration technology cleans and recirculates the water for reuse. Additionally, a computerized drip irrigation system provides each individual tomato plant with the optimal volume of water and nutrients and recirculates excess water to an on-site water purification facility for reuse.