Stay-at-home orders, along with the meteoric rise in online grocery shopping, are among factors causing rapid growth in the AgTech space. At least two companies have announced their intentions to expand operations due to that growth, their CEO said.

Jim White, President and CEO of Post Harvest Technologies, Inc. (PHT), announced the expansion of his operations along with a large-scale recruitment effort.

“Quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major uptick in e-grocery as consumers across the U.S. remained in their homes and bypassed grocery stores, supermarkets and produce stands,” White said. “That, plus an increased demand for fresh fruit and vegetables means grocers and other sellers will need cold storage operations and warehouses to handle the speed and volume of orders. The whole cold storage industry is exploding.”

One of PHT’s portfolio companies is Growers Custom Equipment (GCE) headquartered in Yuma, AZ. It is a specialized post-harvest equipment manufacturer offering a range of cooling products and refrigeration systems to increase the shelf life and quality of fruit and vegetables and expand growers’ markets to more distant locations. “Growers Custom Equipment is only four years old but our growth year-to-date is so strong that we are looking to hire and expand its operations to Phoenix,” White said. “Ideally, we’d like to locate the new property within an opportunity zone so that the new business can positively impact the residents of the local community.”

Central Coast Cooling, another portfolio company of PHT, is a pre-cooling, cold storage and logistics management provider located in Salinas, CA. “Central Coast Cooling is the largest tenant of a 28-acre pre-cooling and cooler warehouse campus owned by Growers Ice Company. The campus is located in Salinas, the ‘salad bowl of the nation,’” White said. “Its old and obsolete buildings are slated to begin a renovation in 2022, culminating in a state-of-the-art facility that will serve the many growers of the region.”

The Salinas campus is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone, a tract designated by state and federal officials as one of over 8,000 struggling urban and rural communities across the country that would greatly benefit from outside investment dollars. White has launched a Qualified Opportunity Fund to channel investments into the Salinas project and thereby into the surrounding community.

Both Growers Custom Equipment and Central Coast Cooling have the potential to positively impact residents of opportunity zones, which by definition are those that struggle with poverty, unemployment, failing infrastructure, and social challenges like crime and drugs.

The rapid growth of both companies has necessitated active recruiting for high-level positions, including general managers, engineers, technicians, administrators and many others who can help the organizations meet the intensified demand for their services, locally and nationally, White added.

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