Red Sun Farms
With seven distribution centers and three state-of-the-art growing facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Red Sun Farms is one of the largest greenhouse vegetable producers in North America. As one of the biggest in the greenhouse industry, Red Sun Farms is also determined to be the best in terms of quality vegetables and vertical integration in seed selection, distribution, sales and everything in between.
Formerly JemD Farms, the company rebranded as Red Sun Farms in 2014 to better represent its popular Red Sun Greenhouse Vegetables and Golden Sun Greenhouse Vegetables consumer brands. Golden Sun represents Canadian-grown produce while Red Sun Farms represents the company’s Mexican and USA -grown product. Both labels offer a range of tomato varieties, sweet bell peppers, miniature seedless cucumbers and eggplants, as well as newly added artisan and organic-series produce.
Finding distribution footing in Pharr
This merger has established one of the largest produce distribution businesses in North America. “In Mexico, we’re one of the biggest high-tech greenhouse producers, operating 250 acres of growing operations in Numaran, Michoacan,” says Carlos Visconti, chief operating officer of Red Sun Farms. “Furthermore, we have also set up a distribution center in Pharr, Texas.”
A Pharr facility made sense for Red Sun Farms due to the sheer volume of produce the company imports from Mexico. “Four years ago we began developing the Pharr location because it didn’t make sense for us to continue leasing distribution facilities; we needed to start our own warehouse and consolidate,” explains Visconti.
The development of the I-69C/US Hwy 281 made Pharr an ideal, direct-route location for Red Sun Farms. “Today, 97 percent of our production is exported to the U.S. and Canada and all of it crosses through the Pharr warehouse,” says Visconti. “This has made room for more direct shipments and control in the distribution process, giving us added flexibility and at the end of the day, translates to a fresher product for our customers.”
Once the first phase of Pharr took off, Visconti says customer demand for more direct shipments launched phase two of expansion. “In November 2014 we added an additional 42,000 square feet of cold storage space,” he adds. “We’re also using a system that helps us rotate product based up FIFO standards to ensure freshness. It’s not necessarily unique in the industry but it’s important when you cross close to 9 million cases per year.”
Completing the Pharr warehouse addition has added a further level of vertical integration in Red Sun Farms’ business model. One call to Red Sun Farms offers customers a 12-month greenhouse program, complete with personalized, experienced greenhouse sales and marketing specialists.
Bridging the grower-consumer gap
With seven distribution centers and three state-of-the-art farms, Red Sun Farms is able to close the gap between grower, retailer and consumer. “We are the first greenhouse company in North America to own and operate farms in all three NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] countries,” says Visconti.
Starting with the growers, who have a true passion and love for providing flavorful greenhouse produce, Red Sun Farms is connecting customers to the farm. “We’ve recently partnered with more end users to help develop and cultivate varieties that make the most sense for them,” shares Visconti.
Visconti says Red Sun Farms’ vertical integration shines in the industry and is one of the company’s biggest competitive advantages. “We own the complete process all the way from seed selection to propagation, distribution and sales; we are quite unique in this aspect,” he explains. “Today, more and more customers want to deal directly with the growers and we offer even more than that, going a step further by letting customers select the seeds they want; we propagate the seeds, plant and produce.”
Safe, wholesome produce
In Dublin, Virginia, Red Sun Farms is also keeping pace with demand in the ever-popular organics market, providing fresh, organic-certified produce to urban East Coast customers. The company’s newest greenhouse facility in Dublin covers 18 acres and there are plans in the works to add 30 more acres over two additional phases. One-third of the Virginia facility is currently dedicated to organic tomato varieties.
Furthermore, 100 percent of Red Sun Farm seeds consist of non-GMO varieties. “Because we grow indoors, within protective barriers and full climate-controlled environments, we don’t need GMO seeds to allow us to produce,” says Visconti. “We do not use pesticides in the production of our greenhouse vegetables either.”
Instead, Red Sun Farms optimizes an integrated pest management (IPM) program, the practice of introducing predatory insect populations to control harmful pest insects. Red Sun Farms also integrates the use of natural substances such as skim milk on peppers and strategically places bait plants to lure pests to other crops.
Red Suns Farms’ commitment to better produce goes beyond the bottom line, and is a reflection of the company’s community consciousness. The company is an active supporter and lobbyist for parent and child education, school cafeteria programs and organizations that endorse item traceability. Red Sun Farms has close relationships with organizations such as Feeding America and the Forgotten Harvest group in Ontario, regularly donating and distributing greenhouse produce to those in need.
By bridging passionate growers to customers and communities and optimizing strategic gardens and distribution centers, Red Sun Farms is paving the way to higher-quality produce in North America.