Nile Valley Foods closes due to "inadequate profit margin"

Nile Valley Foods closes due to  "inadequate profit  margin"

Nile Valley Foods closes due to "inadequate profit margin"

A hydroponic produce operation is out of business after less than two years. Nile Valley Foods permanently closed its doors last week after growing popular fresh tomatoes, lettuce, kale and other vegetables in two greenhouses built especially for the operation in the Lovelock Industrial Area.

Nile Valley Foods spokesman Robert McDougal said the hydroponic equipment, the greenhouses and possibly other warehouses in the industrial park property are now on the commercial real estate market.

“We are looking for other people or growers who might be interested in either the facility or the equipment,” McDougal said. He explained the income from selling the vegetables did not offset the produce production costs.

“Nile Valley Foods sadly has ceased operations this week. The owners found that, even though they developed excellent and tasty food products and production methods, the market could not support the additional value needed to achieve profitability,” he said in a statement. “The company is working to find a buyer or buyers for the greenhouse and equipment, preferably to stay in place and operate at the current location.”

McDougal said that three or four full-time and two part-time Nile Valley employees were laid off.

The business sold products expected to be in high demand at urban restaurants in Reno and Carson City. Nile Valley Foods items were also on the menu at Lovelock restaurants, including the Black Rock Grill and Temptations. The vegetables were also popular lunch items at the Pershing County Senior Center.

Nile Valley Foods hosted a weekly farmers market that made unsold but still fresh produce available to and popular with local residents. The market attracted a crowd each Friday afternoon for the roma and cherry tomatoes, Romaine lettuce and Russian kale. Locals felt the products had a taste not found in regular grocery stores where the produce has probably been harvested weeks earlier in another state or country.

Pershing County resident Barbara Rackley will miss the Nile Valley products but, after talking with McDougal, attributed the greenhouse closure to the tough-to-beat supermarket prices for produce.

In 2015, McDougal, the president of McDougal Livestock Company, and his partner C Punch Ranch had big plans for Nile Valley Foods. A fast-growing white fish called tilapia would be produced along with the vegetables in a symbiotic combination of hydroponics and aquaponics. The fish would contribute water-dissolved nutrients for the plants while the plants would purify water for the fish.

At the time, there seemed to be a thriving market for both fresh fish and vegetables at urban eateries. McDougal also touted the water efficiency of hydroponic greenhouse plants compared to the Lovelock Valley’s outdoor feed crops such as alfalfa, wheat and corn that require less efficient flood irrigation.

“Look at how many gallons of water it takes to grow a ton of alfalfa versus how much lettuce we can produce,” he said. “In terms of efficiency, hydroponics and aquaponics are about as tight as you can get in terms of using the amount of water you need and very little more.”

Another product would be garden fertilizer to be made from the concentrated fish waste not needed in the hydroponic or aquaponic process. However, the aquaponics part of the operation was later scrapped, as the owners concentrated on producing and delivering a reliable supply of fresh food to their customers.

Two 3,500 square-foot greenhouses in a complex of large warehouses near the rail and freeway corridor could attract new owners. There’s city water, industrial power and year-round temperature-controlled greenhouses that could be just right for a crop with a bigger profit margin and in even higher demand.