Michelle Moore steps inside one of several commercial greenhouses on display at Adapt8 headquarters in Salem, Ore., noting how sunlight reaches into every nook and cranny of the structure.
“There are no shadows in the greenhouse at all,” said Moore, company president and CEO. “It’s a surprising effect.”
Adapt8, formerly Adaptive Plastics Inc., is known for manufacturing corrugated plastic panels used for greenhouses and greenhouse coverings. The material, branded as Solexx, is highly dense and translucent, meaning it diffuses light to spread over the entire space.
Solexx greenhouses have been sold in all 50 states, Moore said, and in May the company announced it received a $50,000 economic development grant from Marion County for additional product testing and research.
With the money, Adapt8 plans to build a new 2,500-square-foot greenhouse at its offices on Brooklake Road Northeast, where employees will try out new systems and products to reduce energy while maximizing plant growth. Eventually, Moore said the greenhouse will be used to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for the community, with 1,000 pounds donated annually to the Marion-Polk Food Share.
Employees will also establish their own community-supported agriculture program, or CSA, and begin teaching classes to the public on how they can grow their own healthful food at home.
“We want to show people how we’re doing things differently,” Moore said.
The goal, Moore said, is to help commercial growers and hobby farmers conserve resources and become more sustainable. Solexx greenhouses, with their light-scattering polyethylene panels, offer 25 percent more plant growth versus direct light provided by polycarbonate panels, and 30 percent more insulation, she said.
Adapt8, a second-generation family-owned company founded by Moore’s parents, actually got its start by accident. At the time, they were selling plastic totes made from a material similar to Solexx to growers for harvesting fruit. The totes caused less bruising than metal buckets, Moore said.
One day, they left a plastic tote upside down in their yard. The grass underneath, they found, had grown 6-8 inches tall, and was a deep verdant green.
Moore’s father, Mike Perry, quickly realized the material would make for a good greenhouse.
“The family has deemed him the mad scientist,” Moore said with a laugh. “That’s how the company started, as a hobby greenhouse business.”
Today, the business has about 20 employees, and expects to hire 10 more with construction and maintenance of the new test greenhouse. Moore said they plan to break ground sometime before the end of the year.
In 2009, Moore said the company managed to harvest $5,000 worth of food in one season out of an 8-foot-by-8-foot greenhouse. She believes they can produce the same results on a larger scale in a commercial-size building.
“We want to challenge the status quo of how that’s done,” she said. “It’s really a pretty astounding amount of food.”