Indoor plants serve a practical and aesthetic purpose and are good for our health because they release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide while eliminating harmful toxins. Extensive research by NASA has revealed that indoor plants can remove up to 87 percent of all airborne toxins in 24 hours. Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels, and help people to feel more relaxed and improve their everyday mood.
If that’s the case, then the Sunborne Nursery in Richmond, CA is creating cleaner air and alleviating stress by growing some of the finest indoor plants in the U.S. To maintain its 5-star reputation, this nursery uses commercial greenhouses manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc.—also well-known as one of the market leaders in the greenhouse growing industry.
Established in 1975 in Nipomo. CA, by Dan Golden, Sunborne Nursery features first-class tropical indoor plants that they purchase from high-quality growers located in Central California, Southern California, Hawaii, and Florida. Once they arrive, the plants are moved into one of their six interconnected Agra Tech Solar Light greenhouses to keep them healthy before they get shipped out to its customers.
Plants growing in Agra Tech SL50 greenhouses
Sometimes random things turn into wonderful things. The business was initially established as a chicken ranch, until a bottled-water delivery man randomly suggested that they convert their vacant chicken houses into greenhouses. It sounded like a good idea, except Dan Golden and his family knew nothing about growing plants.
To learn as much as he could about the industry before jumping in, the company’s Founder Dan Golden enrolled in the Horticulture Department at San Luis Obispo and took some courses. During one of the class trips to Gallup and Stribling Orchids of Santa Barbara, Dan had a chance meeting with the president of the foliage division. Not knowing any better, Dan told him about the vacant chicken houses and asked him what opportunities he saw for starting a nursery. He said there was a shortage of tropical foliage propagation material and suggested that Dan go into producing rooted cuttings and Sunborne Nursery was born.
In 1991, the business evolved from a growing operation to a wholesale distribution company. Sunborne’s customer base now includes interiorscapers, landscapers, designers, and garden centers. The team at Sunborne is a family affair. While Dan is primarily responsible for sales and purchasing, his son Eli manages the day-to-day operations, and Candice, whose background is in art, plays an important part in the aesthetics and design of Sunborne. Together, they have found their calling in the beauty and environmentally enriching qualities of the tropical plant world.
The company’s COO/Vice-President Eli Golden, age 48, grew up in the business, so he knows it both inside and out. His family’s operation has grown exponentially and 2020 was surely no exception. “We sell a lot of plants to interiorscapers, but things changed obviously during the pandemic,” he said. “So now the business has flipped to where we’re selling more plants to our retailers. In 2019, our volume consisted of 80 percent from our interiorscapers, but now our garden centers and other retailers have really stepped up. People were using the pandemic to improve their environment and indoor plants were part of that.”
Plants are kept healthy and growing in the greenhouse until they are sold
Sunborne has been successful because they only sell the finest products available on the market today. “If we determine that the quality is not up to our standards, we do not bring it into our inventory,” Eli said. “We also have a dedicated quality control specialist who inspects every order to make sure everything is correct, the quality meets our rigorous quality standards and the plants are clean, disease and bug-free.
To hold the plants and keep them healthy and growing until they’re sold, Sunborne acquired six Solar Light 50 greenhouses from Agra Tech in Pittsburg, CA back in 2018. All of the structure is interconnected for a total of 72,000 square feet of usable space. This also includes a head house that contains all of the company’s administrative offices, so that when customers visit the offices, they feel like they’re also in a greenhouse.
Sunborne met with Agra Tech’s Director of Sales, Adam Pound, on multiple occasions in 2016 and 2017 to discuss the planning and design of its greenhouses. Once they decided it was the right way to go, the Golden family encountered a series of obstacles relating to permits in the City of Richmond. After nearly two years, Sunborne attained its permits, so they were ready to build the greenhouses with the help of AgCon, a greenhouse construction company located in San Jose, CA.
Golden is pleased with his greenhouses and is currently planning to acquire one more Solar Light structure from Agra Tech in order to accommodate his company’s growth. “Adam Pound has been amazing and the construction of the greenhouses went smoothly,” Golden said. “Adam worked with us closely to design and setup the greenhouses, based on our needs and overall volume.”
To achieve their goals, Sunborne’s greenhouses are “fairly straightforward” according to Golden, but include a wide range of useful accessories including a roof vent for natural ventilation; an automated curtain system to provide shade during the day and to retain heat at night; roof glazing; and 12,000 sq. ft. of Agra Tech 6’ wide expanded metal benches.
Golden loves his Agra Tech greenhouses and is looking for a brighter future as we enter a post-pandemic world. “Our greenhouses have helped us through this tough period, and the support we’ve received from Agra Tech has been great.”