0:00:00.0 ANNOUNCER: The financial views and opinions expressed by the host and guests on this program do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of 107.7 The Bronc, Rider University, or Certified Wealth Management and Investment. The material discussed is not designed to provide the listeners with individual financial, legal, or tax advice.
0:00:25.6 ANNOUNCER: It’s time to grow your bank as 107.7 The Bronc Presents Master Year Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment. Kurt and his team of financial guests will help you turn those singles into seas of green and plan your financial future accordingly. Now, here’s your money managing host for the hour, Kurt Baker.
0:00:49.2 Kurt Baker: Are you aware that plants can be grown without soil? You understand the benefits of hydroponics, particularly its impact on food insecurity. Desmond Hayes, the founder of GeoGreens, has three degrees in architecture, civil engineering, and environmental science, and has worked as a full-time project manager for construction companies in New York and New Jersey before stepping away to work full-time on the farm. He will discuss the importance of hydroponics as a way to have a direct impact on our food and water, land used in deforestation and carbon footprint, as well as teach you the fundamentals of hydroponics, clean eating and vertical farming. Desmond, I appreciate you coming on. This is a exciting topic. I know this is one of these things that you read about in Popular Science like 20 years ago, like maybe one day we’re gonna do this and that. You’re like, “Yeah, yeah. Right, right. I’ll just put up my garden in the back and deal with it.” So this is one of those futuristic things that’s now… The cover of magazine is now like, you’re doing it, you’re making it happen.
0:01:51.4 Desmond Hayes: Yeah.
0:01:51.8 Kurt Baker: Three degrees, obviously you’re a brilliant guy, so give us a… How did you get here, give us a basics, like how do you have these three architecture, civil engineering, environmental science, and then walk us through how you got to this point, if you don’t mind.
0:02:05.2 Desmond Hayes: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. And I appreciate you guys having me here. Definitely another pin in my head for being in a different podcast and being in Rider University. Yeah, so a little bit of the background, when I was younger I was always one that used to love art and drawing and buildings and whatnot. And I was always an environmental guy. I ended up doing undergraduate in South Jersey and doing my graduate up in North Jersey, NJIT. And that’s where I took the courses on architecture. After I dove into a little bit more, my creative genes, they were sparking and that was there, but I just realized it wasn’t something that I could specifically just continue to go forward with. And again, I was still a very heavily environmental guy, paying attention to what was happening in the world, the carbon issues, just the greenhouse gases, things of that nature.
0:03:05.1 Kurt Baker: Should I pause?
0:03:06.6 Speaker 4: My bad.
0:03:07.6 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:03:08.5 Speaker 4: You’re saying hydro… It sound like you were saying “hydrophonics”.
0:03:14.2 Kurt Baker: “Ponics”. Oh, did you stop us? Wait.
0:03:15.6 Speaker 5: No, I didn’t. We can edit it in post. We got this.
0:03:19.2 Kurt Baker: Okay. Oh, alright. So we gotta keep going. Hydroponics. Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.
0:03:22.9 Desmond Hayes: But yeah, as I was finishing up in an architecture degree and getting more into my graduate program, I saw the chance to take environmental science. Now, environmental science wasn’t as popular as it is right now, as it has been become over the past few years. When I took it, it was more of a hunch. It was more of one of those things where I knew it was going to go somewhere because people started throwing out that word, those magical words, sustainability, green this, green that, green certification. And just as a younger person, younger guy, I was looking into it and a lot of this stuff made sense. I knew where it was going. So again, it was a hunch and it worked out for me, I ended up getting a degree, had some great, great professors that really, really made me think about different levels on how I can impact the environment.
0:04:19.3 Desmond Hayes: So you fast forward a few more years afterwards, started getting into the working world, had my civil engineering degree, started doing some construction and buildings, roads and highways, so on and so forth. And again, similar to my architecture degree, I just realized it wasn’t something that I could see me doing for a long period of time, just retiring from that. I just didn’t feel like I was really contributing to anything, or anybody. Not to throw or discourage construction, we need that, the world needs that, but after you teach a certain amount of it, I feel like a lot of people can do it.
0:04:54.4 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:04:54.4 Desmond Hayes: I know it’s not rocket science, but you can train, you can get trades on and so forth for construction and construct a building, roads, bridges on and so forth. Hydroponics is more of an art and a science behind it. Yeah, I have to train people for it, people that work with me or work under me. But there’s still certain things that you’re not going to get from a book. There’s certain things that when I’m in my farm in the facility, I can spot check just from an eye test and say, “Okay, this produce here or this crop over here isn’t getting enough ventilation, they’re not getting enough nutrients, the light’s not holding well on it.” Those types of things is the art to it. The science obviously, all the numbers, all the parameters, everything in the indoor environment that contributes to making the plant conducive in… Well making it conducive for the plant to grow on the interior. But that’s where I really started to latch on indoor growing in hydroponics.
0:05:55.5 Kurt Baker: Yeah. So if you don’t mind, let’s get back to some basic, what is hydroponics?
0:06:00.2 Desmond Hayes: Sure.
0:06:00.7 Kurt Baker: And how did you get connected with that? ‘Cause you got the creative, you got the science, you got the engineering, you got all the pieces to build this thing. One is, what is it? And two, how did you actually get this business going and actually what were the steps that you took to get to where you’re at now, where you’re actually doing in the facility? So let’s just start with what is hydroponics?
0:06:18.3 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. So hydroponics it’s the, again, the art and the science or the science of creating a produce or crops or vegetation, soil-less, so completely in water and nutrient mixes. So I would love to say I invented it, but it’s been around since the Greek time. It’s been around for a long, long time. It’s just… I took the concept of it and education behind it and actually made it into something and just made it more tangible than just readable. It’s no longer a concept. It’s now, you can actually do something about it.
0:06:53.2 Kurt Baker: If it’s been around since the Greek time, why now?
0:06:56.3 Desmond Hayes: Why is it happening?
0:06:57.7 Kurt Baker: Why it coming back? Because there’s a lot of dirt in the country.
0:07:01.0 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. It’s a lot.
0:07:02.0 Kurt Baker: Even though we’re building, there’s still a little bit of dirt left.
0:07:04.5 Desmond Hayes: The problem with the… The problem is or one of the problems is conventional farming, conventional meaning outside to your point, while there is plenty of dirt, plenty of soil, after you continue to grow conventionally in soil, those crops and that produce extracts a lot of nutrients from the farmlands. So now you have to either create more farmlands because you have to knock down trees and again contribute to deforestation, those things, and now you are also removing habitats and animals and those types of things from those natural farmlands. So one, it’s not eco-friendly from that standpoint and two conventional farming is just an inefficient way of the utilization of water. If I’m just throwing numbers out there, I believe the last time I checked, I want to say 40% of the planet, the planet’s freshwater is used for agriculture. 60% of that is wasted. It’s a lot of water that’s wasted.
0:08:10.8 Kurt Baker: That’s a lot of… California probably wants some of that back ’cause they wondering where the water is.
0:08:13.9 Desmond Hayes: That’s a lot of water. Yeah. It’s just from all the…
0:08:18.1 Kurt Baker: Wow. That is a lot.
0:08:18.2 Desmond Hayes: It’s all the sprinklers I’m sure every…
0:08:19.5 Kurt Baker: Yeah. ‘Cause it evaporates and it just kind of goes everywhere.
0:08:21.6 Desmond Hayes: It evaporates. The sprinklers they go off at certain points in time. Some of them don’t even hit plants. So now you have a lot of waste, too. Sometimes they over water plants. So it’s just a very inefficient way of farming and growing produce. Hydroponics on the other hand, you can create different systems and methods for salvaging or recycling the water. Now you have that, that’s the benefit too.
0:08:46.4 Kurt Baker: So it sounds like the scarcity of water. ‘Cause I know… In certain parts of the world, especially… Well, in the United States, we tend to be pretty blessed with the exception, California is having problem.
0:08:54.0 Desmond Hayes: We waste a lot of water in the US.
0:08:55.0 Kurt Baker: We waste a lot. But in other parts of the world, this is a real… There is no water to speak of.
0:09:00.0 Desmond Hayes: They treat water like an actual true resource.
0:09:02.7 Kurt Baker: Right, right.
0:09:03.1 Desmond Hayes: They don’t waste water like we do…
0:09:04.6 Kurt Baker: They don’t waste it.
0:09:06.4 Desmond Hayes: Or we’ll just keep water running while we walk away in the room or the living room, the water in the sink is still running. That’s just completely wasteful. So again farming is very just inefficient way of growing the produce.
0:09:18.5 Kurt Baker: So it got to that point where it makes sense to think about this resource as a true resource and you just can’t waste it. We have to pay attention to it. So is that why this is growing as a… No pun intended, but growing as an industry?
0:09:30.6 Desmond Hayes: It’s a lot of puns you can use for growing, but because it’s much more of an environmentally friendly way of growing. Also one of the big contributing factors is now the LEDs, for growing indoors. If you remember when they came out, they were immensely expensive. Fast forward 10 years later, a decade later, now they’re not as expensive. So now you’re starting to see a lot of different companies come up with their own version of LEDs and the cost is nowhere near where it used to be a decade ago.
0:10:02.2 Kurt Baker: Because the energy costs…
0:10:02.8 Desmond Hayes: So now you can use it. Energy costs, obviously we got solar panels now. So all those things come into play to now be able to make it more of economical way of farming…
0:10:15.1 Kurt Baker: There you go.
0:10:16.6 Desmond Hayes: Versus years ago where you would be spending… Your expenses would be a heck of a lot more than any more money that you actually bringing in. It’s still a very…
0:10:24.3 Kurt Baker: So we use… Incandescent lights are gonna use a lot more energy than the new LEDs, right?
0:10:27.9 Desmond Hayes: LEDs, the benefits to LEDs versus the other lights is that they also don’t create as much heat. That’s very, very critical when you have either a small office or even a large warehouse.
0:10:41.1 Kurt Baker: Because you’re gonna evaporate the water, too. The water’s…
0:10:43.6 Desmond Hayes: You’re evaporating water, but the water, if it gets too hot, it creates pests. If the water gets too hot, it creates algae. All these things are restrictions as to why you don’t want to have the indoor environment and that space too hot. So LEDs help towards that one main parameter. And other light bulbs, again it’ll create a lot of heat.
0:11:07.9 Kurt Baker: So that sounds like there was a major piece of these economic puzzles, when those LEDs came down in price…
0:11:12.3 Desmond Hayes: LEDs was huge.
0:11:13.1 Kurt Baker: It starts to make sense for you to… The energy cost is not too crazy. So you can actually… So people start doing this. So when did this take off and when did you get started with this thing? You’re out there working on the roads, working…
0:11:26.1 Desmond Hayes: Yeah, that was… I did a complete turn.
0:11:26.7 Kurt Baker: It was like a hot day or something you said, “I’m gonna go indoors”?
0:11:28.6 Desmond Hayes: I did a complete turn. No, I was taking… While I was in college and after college I was experimenting with a lot of things. I was trying to read on a lot of different areas where I could test and contribute to the environment. I took classes over in California on something called gray water, which is the recycle of water that goes down the sink, not water that goes down the toilet, waters you can actually filter and reuse.
0:12:00.5 Kurt Baker: That’s the blackwater.
0:12:01.3 Desmond Hayes: That’s was grey… Blackwater is the toilet.
0:12:01.4 Kurt Baker: That’s the blackwater versus greywater.
0:12:01.5 Desmond Hayes: Blackwater is the toilet and the bathtubs. Gray water is in the main sinks and whatnot. I thought that was a great idea, but I couldn’t… It just didn’t catch. I took a class like I said, and was reading, it just didn’t catch me for it. Solar panels, I started looking at those before those got real big. Didn’t really gain my attention or go into attention. Wind energy, I was really heavy on that, and geothermal energy, I really thought I was going to gravitate to that one. But the cost and there’s also certain things in the environment that’s not… It’s not the best either. So, because… I’m basically just doing a process of elimination over this point in time. And then one day, I was living over there near the shore, near the Asbury Park area. There was a hydroponic store. I was actually just, I think I was grocery shopping or something that day. I saw a hydroponic store and just like anything any other day, I went in there, talked to a couple people, took a bunch of supplies and materials, took it home, started building, started growing. My house was in shambles for a good few months ’cause I was learning everything on the fly and just kept going.
0:13:12.1 Desmond Hayes: We’re gonna just catch a… We’re gonna take a quick break. That’s awesome. We’re gonna do the hydroponics, went to the store, we’re gonna be right back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances.
0:13:23.3 ANNOUNCER: Yeah. You’ve got loads of money, but it’s all about how you manage it. Let’s get back to learning how to… Are you agreeing with Kurt Baker of Certified Wealth Management and Investment only on Master Your Finances.
0:13:35.0 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finance. I’m here with Desmond Hayes and we’re talking about hydroponics and before the break you were… Kinda your process of elimination. You knew you wanted to affect the world, you had a greater purpose. You weren’t sure exactly what it was, but you knew it had to do with the environment. So you went through some of the traditional ones, wind and solar and…
0:13:56.7 Desmond Hayes: Solar. Just recycled water.
0:14:00.0 Kurt Baker: Yeah. Yeah. And these are all we’d heard of. And honestly, this hydroponic thing is… I heard a little experiment… Literally, I think I read it in Popular Science years ago. Like, “Here’s what you do.” And you’re like, “Okay.” But it was never really something that felt scalable. So now the LED thing comes in and now hey, you get the energy cost down, you get the heat down. Wow. Now maybe we can actually do something here. So you went to that store, you talked to a few people. What happened next after you had that convo? And you took the stuff home, had a mess outta your house. Right?
0:14:28.9 Desmond Hayes: Right, right. The house was in shambles.
0:14:29.6 Kurt Baker: So anybody lived with you? Were you by yourself or you didn’t have anybody over there with you?
0:14:32.6 Desmond Hayes: No, that was just me. That was me. I had people…
0:14:35.1 Kurt Baker: All right. So you didn’t at least have to explain it to somebody else?
0:14:37.0 Desmond Hayes: I did when I had people over. I did. ‘Cause the lights…
0:14:39.6 Kurt Baker: “Okay, what’s going on here, man?”
0:14:40.8 Desmond Hayes: The lights will be on for 18 hours and that’s going beyond midnight. So people will be looking at my house like, “What the heck is… Why are the lights… “
0:14:47.5 Kurt Baker: Oh, that’s so funny.
0:14:48.2 Desmond Hayes: “So bright over there?” And I would have to tell them, “Yeah, I’m growing produce over there.”
0:14:53.6 Kurt Baker: Summer break guy, man.
0:14:54.3 Desmond Hayes: The problem with that is you gotta… And the same thing that’s going on right now with hydroponics is because of the new industry, not new industry, but the cannabis industry also have to tell people in preface every single time I have something like this or a presentation, I’m not growing cannabis. Hydroponics again, started a long time ago with produce. I’m not growing cannabis. And so every single time, I always have to preface that.
0:15:20.2 Kurt Baker: You’re not growing weed in the closet?
0:15:21.9 Desmond Hayes: I’m not doing that.
0:15:22.8 Desmond Hayes: Even my landlord… My landlord…
0:15:26.1 Kurt Baker: That’s so funny.
0:15:26.6 Desmond Hayes: It was one point time at the same place. My landlord texted me one day and was like, “Hey, some water is leaking from your space, from your apartment.” And this is again, when I was building everything from scratch. And one of the tubes came out and there was water leaking. And so she went up there and was completely caught off guard. And I had to go back to her later on that day. Like, “I’m not growing weed. It’s just… ” I think I was growing lettuce at the time.
0:15:48.8 Kurt Baker: Right. Okay.
0:15:49.7 Desmond Hayes: Because all she saw was produce. She saw lights and everything, but she didn’t know what the heck it was. Like, “Don’t worry, we not gonna get arrested. I’m just growing produce. This is something I’m testing right now, so don’t worry.” So she was put… They was great landlords.
0:16:02.8 Kurt Baker: That’s good you had a good landlord.
0:16:03.2 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. They were great. They were great.
0:16:04.1 Kurt Baker: That’s good.
0:16:04.7 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. But I mean, from that point on beyond that small issue, I just kept growing and just kept practicing again, kept developing art. I made document of everything. I still go back to some of the notes I had from eight years ago.
0:16:19.8 Kurt Baker: Wow.
0:16:19.8 Desmond Hayes: Just so I can make sure, okay, I’m staying in tune with everything that I learned from before. And I self-taught myself, still applying it today. So I’ll still reach out and go back to the long, long notebooks that I used to have, too. But I just gotta get more passion for it.
0:16:33.9 Kurt Baker: I guess the concept down. Now once you get the concept down, I assume it’s no longer in the apartment with the landlord. You’ve grown out of that I think, is my recollection.
0:16:42.2 Desmond Hayes: Now I am. Yes. I’m no longer there.
0:16:43.4 Kurt Baker: So what happened after that? “I got proof of concept this is gonna work.” At least that’s what you thought from your scale there.
0:16:50.2 Desmond Hayes: I started doing a couple popup shops, testing the products in gyms and testing it in different centers and getting good feedback. Some not so much.
0:17:00.8 Kurt Baker: So were you growing it there or were you selling it there?
0:17:01.4 Desmond Hayes: No, I was growing it and selling it there.
0:17:03.3 Kurt Baker: Interesting.
0:17:03.7 Desmond Hayes: So I had a couple… Just had a couple colleagues, couple family members, reaching out saying, “Hey, we got this type event coming up. Do you want to try and to get the company out there a little bit?” Or they would say, “Hey, I joined a gym, do you want me to give out some of these samples?” And I ended up just doing that. And the feedback was good. So now I got some good feedback. Now I got a couple small time B2B people or B2C customers that are coming back consistently for the greens that I’m producing. So now I got a little momentum going with me for right now.
0:17:37.4 Kurt Baker: Okay, good.
0:17:38.4 Desmond Hayes: This was right on the tail… Oh, not on the tail. Right on the beginning of COVID. So now all the momentum I’m starting to garner is just got knocked completely away. ‘Cause now we all in the house, we getting all locked in.
0:17:50.2 Kurt Baker: There’s no going to the gym with your products.
0:17:52.4 Desmond Hayes: Not going anywhere now. So that was honestly the tipping point for me. ‘Cause what I realized was, and I think what a lot of entrepreneurs realize at some point, I’m putting so much effort into working for somebody else at the time. All that time and energy where, again, I was working in New York, so that’s two hours there. Work 10 hours, two hours back. That 14, 15 hours I’m putting in, I was putting all into the company, my company. So now I’m like, “All right, well if I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do this.” So that was a turning point.
0:18:24.4 Kurt Baker: So this opened a door of opportunity for you?
0:18:25.8 Desmond Hayes: That’s what it was. That was the turning point. Yeah.
0:18:27.0 Kurt Baker: There you go. That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
0:18:28.0 Desmond Hayes: And then with COVID and health issues, all the things that was going around, it’s being spreading in news, I’m like, “This could definitely be something to help people and get better result each day from the foods.”
0:18:37.9 Kurt Baker: So that what was your next step? Now you went from like having in these different locations, like the gyms and these different places. So how did you move to where you are now? ‘Cause you got a pretty good sized facility now, right?
0:18:47.8 Desmond Hayes: During that whole time, that eight-year period, I was always doing, again, research and looking into different markets that I knew I could get into. So getting into the senior level, like assisted living and wellness centers, that was something I had seen like, “Okay, if they get better produce, I’m sure they could be a great client.” Hospitals, selling them directly. Colleges and institutions, a subscription-based platform, something called a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, where it is again, a subscription. This again was at a time where everything was being subscription, everything was delivered. So I knew that could be another revenue source, somewhere else I could really get some good attention and create a niche for myself in there, too. So all this I was doing, and again, researching it at a time. I also had something called a virtual assistant, which I tell my little brother and other family members, “Hey, I know you’re working full-time, so no way you’re always gonna have the same amount of energy by the end of the day.”
0:19:51.1 Desmond Hayes: You can get a virtual assistant, they could do certain tasks for you throughout the course of the day and then give you back their feedback and then you can continue on whatever you’re trying to do, whatever you’re trying to research on. So I had hired a virtual assistant and I still have them to this day and get about 100 tasks a month. And I’m just shooting things out there and me document everything, all the research, all the demographics, the percentages, all this stuff that I’m doing just as market analysis before I decided to really get the facility I’m in right now. So by the time I got to the facility, I knew everybody I was gonna start reaching out to, it was just a matter of the word of mouth. So I had done all that due diligence, all at homework so that by the time…
0:20:33.4 Kurt Baker: Doing your homework, that’s important.
0:20:35.1 Desmond Hayes: I was ready to go. So when I got to this facility, I had knew I wanted to go into these niches to again, the wellness centers and the schools and everything like that. Again, it was just a matter of starting to create the brand and starting to create the name.
0:20:51.4 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:20:52.4 Desmond Hayes: So as I got in there, luckily it was the… Mercer County was extremely good to us and they started pushing the name, pushing the brand out there to certain agencies, certain organizations, too. And they started reaching back out to us, too. So it really just organically took its own life from there. And even to this point right now where we’re trying to… We’re in the process of trying to expand because the brand is carrying on even more. But again, we’re constricted or confined within the space. We’re growing indoors. So there’s only so much I can produce, only so much volume that we can supply before we can’t supply no more. And I don’t want to be that person saying, “Okay, just taking the business on, but I can’t satisfy.”
0:21:36.2 Kurt Baker: So you mentioned the term organic, if you don’t mind explaining, ’cause you did this during the workshop.
0:21:40.0 Desmond Hayes: Oh yeah, yeah, organics. [chuckle]
0:21:41.8 Kurt Baker: There was like organic and hydroponics, the pros and cons, ’cause organic is maybe misunderstood. We want to explain what that term really is and how that compares to what you’re doing.
0:21:50.7 Desmond Hayes: So the biggest… Let me take a step back. One of the first things I always have people answer when I have tours at my facility, first thing I ask is, “What do you know about organics?” I wanna say 90-95 percent of the people first thing they say is “Oh, that’s the best. There’s no pesticides.” And I’m have to say, “No, that’s no.” [chuckle] I laugh, but I seriously joke. I’m like, “No, that’s what everybody thinks. That’s what the masses want you to think.” Organic simply means less pesticides in it. It still has pesticides in it and certain ones have a good amount of pesticides in it. And you can easily find this online. There’s a list of pesticides that certain farmers can use in certain amounts, but organic still has pesticides in it. Versus us, what we’re doing, we’re growing indoors. And what happens when you grow indoors and what I’ve required people to do is when we have tours, even my employees, even my current landlord, if you come on my space, you have to get geared up. You have to wear…
0:22:52.6 Kurt Baker: Like a clean room, it sounds like.
0:22:54.3 Desmond Hayes: You gotta wear a PPE, you gotta wear shoe guards, you gotta wear hair net, you gotta wear gloves. All this is so…
0:23:00.2 Kurt Baker: Sort of the operating room?
0:23:01.0 Desmond Hayes: Yep.
0:23:01.1 Desmond Hayes: All this is so people can’t bring pests in because a lot of people don’t realize you get pests on your clothes, insects, insect dropping, stuff like that in your hair definitely underneath your shoes. That’s our bread and butter. I can’t bring pests in here. So you have to wear those types of things. So we don’t have pests, therefore we don’t have to spray pesticides. So this is more natural and a lot cleaner than anything else you’re going to eat. Versus organics where a lot of people think that’s the best, they still have pesticides. The other side of that and what I’ll try to educate people on, ’cause it’s a big education factor of growing indoors and what people think they know what’s actually true out there, you also have to realize where your produce is coming from. So even if it is organic, if the farm is three miles away from a highway, you get a lot of exhaust on your produce. You’re not saving anything by saying, “Oh, I eat organics.” If it’s three miles from the highway, you’re getting a lot of exhaust on there. Obviously if there’s a… If it’s being grown from, I’ll say California, there’s a lot of trucking that goes in there. So as soon as you harvest produce, it starts to die. So if we’re getting, I’ll say lettuce again from California, it gets harvested, put on the truck, couple days, trucked over here, couple of more days in the supermarket, couple of days, sits on the shelves, a couple of days, you buy it, couple of days.
0:24:26.2 Desmond Hayes: You’re talking about two to three weeks by the time that crop has been harvested and it’s been dead. So you’re no longer eating nutrient dense food, you’re just eating dense food that’s not helping you at all. And just stamping organics on it, doesn’t make it any better. It’s still dead food with slightly less pesticides on it. So you’re not gaining anything from just saying you eat organics. You have to know where your produce is coming from, too. So one of the benefits to what we’re doing and what separate us from other… Us is that we eliminate that middle guy, the distributor. So we supply everything directly. So when it goes to… We supply Princeton University, goes directly to the cafeteria. The health and wellness center is directly to their cafeteria and their shelves. The school is where New Jersey right now has a pilot program where we’re doing, there’s a farm, two schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. We harvest it end of the week, it’s in that school by the start of the week. So you’re talking about two days of harvesting. They’re getting the best product out. I can’t speak for anybody else but, I didn’t have that option when I was in middle school. So I love that side of it, that I can provide that. So I know they’re getting the benefit of eating better food.
0:25:36.7 Kurt Baker: Well, that’s really awesome, man. We’re gonna take another quick break. We’ll be right back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances.
0:25:41.6 ANNOUNCER: We’re not just doing this for money, we’re doing it for a shit load of money. If you want to learn how to make and manage that kind of money, turn the volume up as we get back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker of Certified Wealth Management and Investment.
0:25:57.6 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finance. I’m here with Desmond Hayes and we’re talking about hydroponics and I guess the difference between organic and hydroponics, the organic actually has what, less pesticides than conventional, but it still has pesticides based on what it is. You can look it up. And you also pointed out that a lot of it depends on where you get the food from and we hear a lot about this “Buy local, buy local.” And I’m a big believer not just to support the local people but it’s also for your own benefit. If it’s sitting in a truck for a week, as we point out, the food is dying the whole time. And so you’re getting it a week, two, three, four weeks later, and that’s when you’re eating it. So, the closer it is to where you get it from, the fresher it is, the better the nutrient density is and the better it is for you. You also mentioned you grow… One thing I think maybe we should explain to people is that hydroponics is great, but there are benefits and then there’s still limitations. I remember in the presentation you told us, lettuce is different than tomatoes as an example. So what are some of the parameters on what can be grown how? And what kind of… The economics of like, can you get anything hydroponics at this point, or how does that work and how do you make decisions on what to grow and things like that?
0:27:11.3 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. It definitely comes down to the market and the demographic of where the farm’s located and who the operator or the farmer is, who they’re supplying to. So when we opened up facility we are right now, we understood that if we try to, for example, grow tomatoes, as you mentioned a little while ago, there’s only so many tomato plants you actually fit in that type of space and so many tomatoes that grow on a certain tree. And tomatoes are one of those crops that take three to four months to grow. So economically, if you sit there and think of, okay, I got, I’m just going to throw out some random numbers. If you throw 20 tomato trees out there, each one is gonna produce maybe five of them, five tomatoes. You got a hundred tomatoes that took four months to grow. Now consider the fact that you are paying and your expenditures are all the expenses that go into creating these tomatoes.
0:28:13.7 Desmond Hayes: So the lights, the water, the mechanical, the ventilation, the pumps, everything is going into you growing a hundred tomatoes in four months. Unless you’re selling those tomatoes for $500 a pop, you’re not going to make a lot of…
0:28:29.0 Kurt Baker: Must be a really good tomato, man.
0:28:30.4 Desmond Hayes: Exactly. Exactly. You’re not going to make a lot sales from those types of tomatoes. I mean, they’re great. Again, they’re the natural type of growth, hydroponically, but it has to make sense economically.
0:28:45.7 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:28:45.8 Desmond Hayes: Then again, when it comes down to the demographics, where you’re at, so some of the partners we work with, one in particular is food banks and food pantries. They’ve reached out to us and we still work with one in particular in Mercer County, and said, “Okay, we want to supply so much lettuce.” And I know the urban areas, lettuce is not one of the go-tos. Now, if you drop spinach or collards, or in some cases kale in these areas, that’ll fly off in all the pantry shelves, lettuce is not one of those things where urban, Black, Brown communities is going to run and gravitate to. So knowing what the demographic is and who you’re supplying is huge. So we wanted to make sure we fine tune that as we got the facility that we’re at. So that’s why we grow the ones that we grow right now. There was some elimination because we wanted to throw out there that we can grow practically anything. It’s just a matter of what the economics are gonna come down to, how they’re gonna round out at the end of the day. So that played a huge part into providing information on what we grow right now. So hydroponically, anything that’s a leafy green, again, lettuce, arugula, basil, different herbs, we can grow those hydroponically. Tomatoes, strawberries you can grow hydroponically.
0:30:07.6 Desmond Hayes: There’s several things you can. The ones or the types of produce you can’t are anything where that requires the produce to burrow or basically be under the soil.
0:30:17.4 Kurt Baker: Like a carrot?
0:30:17.8 Desmond Hayes: Carrots, tomato… Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, those heavy vine types of crops. Those things, you can’t. It wouldn’t surprise me over the next decade if it doesn’t coming out. Doesn’t come. Yeah. I’m pretty sure it will. But those are the ones that separate from ones you can do, and you can’t do hydroponic. But again, it comes down to the size of the farm and how much the yield, how much you’re getting out and what you’re selling it for. There’s a farm I believe in Illinois that all they do is grow tomatoes. Now, they got thousands of acres of land out there. They have pollinating bees that they capture and they’re in a greenhouse and they just sit there and pollinate all the time.
0:31:05.9 Kurt Baker: They do this hydroponically. Really?
0:31:06.6 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. Hydroponically, yeah.
0:31:06.8 Kurt Baker: Oh, wow. That’s amazing.
0:31:08.8 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. And they have workers out there and they’ll just harvest consistently yearly round. And that’s how that works.
0:31:15.8 Kurt Baker: So I guess, scale matters in this case.
0:31:16.9 Desmond Hayes: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I’ve gotten asked that question several times on tours. “Can you grow strawberries? Can you grow tomato?” I say, “Yeah, I have done that before in the past, but economically it just doesn’t make sense.” Now when we expand, the plan is to offer those, but still not to base the business around them.
0:31:36.4 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:31:37.2 Desmond Hayes: So that has a big deal with it. And again, the demographic, that’s another reason why, who we work with, we eliminated the distributor and we wanted to work directly with the customers, but at the same time, we’ve been asked about restaurants and caterers and not to discourage those industries, we need those industries, but one of the other big focal points again that separates us is that we don’t want to contribute to food waste.
0:32:06.2 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:32:06.7 Desmond Hayes: And if you think about those industries, restaurants and caterers, yeah, it would be… It brings sales in for us. But every so often you got a week where they want a lot, then they don’t want a lot. Caterers, the same thing. They want a lot, then they don’t want a lot. Same thing where the farmers’ markets, you have a great day or you can have a terrible weekend. So now I have all this produce that I have to figure out where to place it and you know, dollars and cents aside, I don’t want that just to go to waste. I wanna make sure it’s being taken advantage of.
0:32:35.5 Kurt Baker: So how do you manage that aspect? You bring up a great point because the demand is not always… Your crop is growing as it grows. So how do you manage that supply and demand when you’re trying to…
0:32:46.0 Desmond Hayes: It came down to just relationships now. ‘Cause a lot of people, the clients that we have now, they understand, okay, if you want a certain quantity, certain volume, here are the advantages of it. You’re gonna get it every single week or how often you want it. This is going to be… It’s gonna be harvested just a few days before you get it. It’s gonna go right directly to you and you gonna get it around the clock. And if we need to jump up the volume, we will. Versus again, that ebb and flow and that change in quantities that we don’t like to contribute. So it’s really the relationships now. The clients understand, okay, we have to tell GeoGreens this amount, this amount of time, and we’ll get this consistently around the clock. ‘Cause again, it’s indoors. While crops outside right now are dying or conventional farmers aren’t doing anything, my farm is still thriving right now. We’re growing 365 all the time. So right now we’re harvesting tomorrow and Friday for deliveries for next week versus areas where they do not produce anything. ‘Cause it’s so cold outside right now. So it continue goes around clock and that’s the benefit. That’s the advantage. And that’s why we’re able to continue with the customers we got and continue to build more customers now, too.
0:33:56.0 Desmond Hayes: So it’s definitely worked itself out. It was just a matter of educating the people that weren’t familiar with hydroponics and understanding it’s no longer a concept. I’m actually making this into a business and we can make this very successful throughout the state. So that’s the point.
0:34:13.3 Kurt Baker: So you figured it out, I know you’ve got all this research behind it, so how did you get the… ‘Cause it sounds like you’ve got a number of different partners that you’re working with now, obviously they gotta support you, so they’re coming to you because they support the cause, or is there an economic benefit to this at this point? Or is it still one of these things where it’s just better food, you’re supporting a better way of doing this?
0:34:34.1 Desmond Hayes: I think it’s a mixture of several things, the whole local premise, buy local within the state and one of the, if not the, one of the main missions for us was always to go and attack and take care of food insecurity and food deserts. So that was the catapult or the catalyst for us working with our main client, which is getting to schools, like this is… They actually are a distributor, but there’s a distributor that goes to food deserts and food insecurity areas. So they work within Camden City in New Jersey. They work within Bridgeton.
0:35:12.8 Kurt Baker: So explain those two terms. I mean, I know what those mean, but explain what food insecurity actually means for people and then what a food desert is. ‘Cause most people have food. They’re like, “Ah, I just go to the grocery store and pick it up. No problem.” Explain like what those terms means.
0:35:26.4 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. Yeah. So the term has evolved over the last… Just over the last year and some change that we’ve been… And obviously, it’s been food deserts, food apartheid, food insecurity. I’ve heard three or four other ones. It’s escaping me right now, but it’s just a matter of that specific area not having either a supermarket or a convenience store within a certain amount of mileage that those people within the area can access. So Trenton’s one. The agency, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, they listed 50 of them in the state. That’s just 50 of them that they know of. I could have listed off several more, but these are the ones that they feel are the most critical and they need the most attention.
0:36:13.7 Kurt Baker: ‘Cause a lot of things that people… Well, unfortunately, you can correct me if I’m wrong here, but my understanding is especially lower income people, they tend to eat foods that are cheaper but not better for them because they don’t have access to foods that are actually better for you and actually make them healthier. And they would ultimately net more positive.
0:36:30.6 Desmond Hayes: Exactly, yep.
0:36:31.1 Kurt Baker: And so the problem is you’ve got this catch-22 where they’re not eating well, so they’re not performing well. So until you get the good food in them and you are what you eat, so to speak. So until you get good food in you then you’ll be healthier and you’ll be able to work better.
0:36:45.1 Desmond Hayes: And that’s another thing I try to educate people on when they come in. And to your point like that, I believe the last time I looked at it, the average household spends like $80 on supplements. If you put that $80 into better food that you eat, now you’re not spending or just “popping pills” because you need that additional nutrition and those additional minerals and vitamins or whatnot, spending on better food. But that’s where the issue of food insecurity comes in play. ‘Cause if we talking about “better food” in certain areas, I’ll use our facility for example, the closest Whole Foods, for example, is like 30 minutes away from where we’re located. Not gonna say nobody, but people within that area, the urban demographic are not traveling 20, 30 minutes to go to a Whole Foods and by a marked up piece of produce that’s not as great as something that we provide.
0:37:39.8 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:37:40.0 Desmond Hayes: So why do that? So to your point, they’ll just go to a Walmart, which is not known for its produce at all. Walmart is a store. The super Walmart is known for a whole bunch of other things, but produce isn’t really one of them. But it’s cheaper. Same thing going to like a Wawa or a convenience store. None of these are known for the healthier side of produce. But it’s accessibility. They’ll go there and think that they’re doing their part, but you’re really, again, just eating dense food. You’re not eating anything that has a lot of nutritional value in it.
0:38:12.5 Kurt Baker: Absolutely, man, I appreciate it. We are listening to Master Your Finances. We’re gonna take another quick break.
0:38:16.5 ANNOUNCER: Do you want to prevent this from happening to you? And it’s gone, it’s all gone. Listen closely as we now return to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker of Certified Wealth Management and Investment.
0:38:28.3 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finance and I’m here with Desmond Hayes. And we’re talking about just before the break, food insecurity and food deserts. So really you’re trying to fulfill that area where some of these things just aren’t available especially to the lower income neighborhoods where maybe these places don’t go there. There aren’t enough volume and they can’t… So we really need to… The better food you eat, the healthier you are and ultimately the better results you’re gonna get as far as just your health overall. So it leads to better health. And so that’s very important and I appreciate you doing that. So can anybody… How do we purchase a hydroponic food? I guess that’s my next question ’cause if I’m out there saying, “Ah, this is awesome,” how would somebody like myself say, “All right, I’m gonna put that on the list this week.” How do we do that? Or is that not possible yet? Or we’re not providing that point?
0:39:19.1 Desmond Hayes: I mean, certain… I would love to say again that I’m one of the only ones in the state, but at my scale, there are two more in the state that I’m familiar with. And a lot of people are still doing it, like on the hobbyist level and trying to figure things out. But we’re located in supermarkets, we’re at Pennington Quality Market, we’re in New Egypt marketplace. We’re working on two or three other ones right now, but just the clients that we have right now, they take up majority of our volume, which is again, why we’re trying to expand now. But yeah, there are a few of them out there, but you just got… Labeling is everything. Labeling, it’ll tell you if it is going hydroponically, obviously if it’s local, things like that.
0:40:02.7 Kurt Baker: Does it have a sticker similar to the organic sticker? Does it have something that’s similar to that on there?
0:40:06.5 Desmond Hayes: No, well, no.
0:40:07.9 Kurt Baker: How do you know?
0:40:08.4 Desmond Hayes: The organic thing is basically just a stamp. But it’ll tell you… Normally, the ones I’ve seen, it’ll say hydroponically grown or hydroponically grown in a greenhouse, something like that.
0:40:18.2 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:40:19.5 Desmond Hayes: But again, you gotta look into it. ‘Cause greenhouses they use soil and some of them might still use pesticides. So you just gotta understand what the label says. Like mines or ours, for example, say pesticide free, hydroponically grown in New Jersey, hydroponically seeded and grown in New Jersey. So everything on that label shows you that we’re located, our base is here and it’s not grown or shipped from somewhere else like California or anything like that.
0:40:46.4 Kurt Baker: Right, right.
0:40:47.0 Desmond Hayes: The labeling is everything. But yeah, we’re working on a couple other supermarkets. We’re already in a few right now, too. And what helps us even further in what we’re trying to do is push and get the word around circulating even more. For directly to customers, we do have online sales too, where people will sit there and place an order online whether it be one or two products or so, we’ve delivered and we’ll deliver it directly to them. And then there’s the CSA, which I was speaking about earlier in the conversation again, the Community Supported Agriculture, where that’s a subscription. We actually had a couple of them come through just this past month where you’ll get, depending on the level of subscription, we have one for a small sized family, mid-sized family, large sized family. So you’ll get so many types of produce in a box in a month. And then two, three weeks later you’ll get another six or seven different products depending on which share size you voted for online. So that’s how we’ll get the produce out to people directly.
0:41:53.6 Kurt Baker: Oh, okay.
0:41:54.2 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. And larger volumes, larger amounts, people will reach out to us, like our clients and customers. That’s more of behind the website, that’s normally negotiations and contracts and things like that. So that doesn’t happen online. Online is specifically for getting it more so out to the masses and getting it out to individuals or families from that standpoint.
0:42:14.7 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:42:14.9 Desmond Hayes: Yes.
0:42:15.0 Kurt Baker: Well it’s good to know that they can get it, too. And I guess this is it, what’s the site there geo… What is it, geogreens.com…
0:42:20.6 Desmond Hayes: Yeah, we’re at www.geogreens.org. On Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, or Facebook Meta. And yeah, but these main three ones we kind of pay attention to.
0:42:33.3 Kurt Baker: That’s okay. No, I just want… We mentioned, I just wanna make sure I put that out there, but that’s cool. So, you got an awesome thing. I know you’re trying to grow, so where do you see this industry headed from here? As you said, you said started with the Greeks, it sounds like we’re at this turning point happening now where maybe we’re gonna focus a lot more on this type of growth from various reasons you’ve already described, right?
0:42:54.1 Desmond Hayes: Yeah, yeah.
0:42:54.8 Kurt Baker: And you know, healthier, more efficient, better land use, things like that. We stop taking out the forest in Brazil and things like that, hopefully. Hopefully we stem this tie ’cause at some point we’re gonna run out and we’re gonna be like, “This is not a good situation.” So what are your thoughts about where we’re going from here?
0:43:11.3 Desmond Hayes: I think it’s a mixture of a lot of things where like I was saying before, Mercer County has been great to us. So in order to really see a huge change in this direction, hydroponics and having different locations, there has to be support from the town, the state, community to help with different programs to provide some of the capital for growing this industry a lot more. ‘Cause this is a very capital intensive industry. Again, I bootstrapped to get to this point now, continue to grow and expand, I’m fundraising, we’re in a process of fundraising to acquire and gain some more capital. But once that happens, I think it can really continue to take a turn. The other side of that is if anyone wants or wanted to get into industry, you really need to do your homework and dive into those things I was talking about a moment ago in terms of knowing your demographic. What do you want to grow, what are you going to sell? How long those things take to grow and sell, how much volume and yield you’re going to be able to create in your facility. ‘Cause if you don’t know those things, you’re going to spiral downward.
0:44:25.6 Desmond Hayes: There’s so many farms over the past several years that have just closed down because they looked at it as a great sexy, modernized way of farming, but didn’t do the research and really dive into it. And I still get hit with this question every once in a while that hydroponics, is it sustainable? And I’ll tell people that depends on who you ask. I know several stories where people, partners, investors put a lot of money into a facility, bought the most extreme nice equipment, but nobody knew how to hella farm. Why would you buy all this stuff and you don’t know how to farm, you don’t know the yield, you don’t know what you’re growing, so on and so forth. So now you spent all this money, you’re in the red already and now you’re in the red even more. ‘Cause now you’re spending so much more money doing R&D or now you’ve hired all this staff, but you’re not selling anything. So now you are in the red for more than a year or so. So obviously that’s not sustainable. I can think of another story that I actually approached Philadelphia to open a facility out there. They had a gentleman come from Silicon Valley, talked a very, very good game.
0:45:37.5 Kurt Baker: I bet.
0:45:37.9 Desmond Hayes: Very great salesman.
0:45:40.3 Kurt Baker: I bet.
0:45:40.9 Desmond Hayes: Garnered a lot of money from the town, from the city, laundered everything.
0:45:44.1 Kurt Baker: Oh no.
0:45:44.1 Desmond Hayes: Of course that’s not sustainable. So I can come up with plenty of stories that’s not sustainable. But I can also come up with several stories out there that they are working, they did their homework, they did their research, and it’s working for them. So people that want to get into it, you have to understand economics around it because they’re expensive, and there are lot of things to do with it.
0:46:05.3 Kurt Baker: You’re leading me to what my passion was. And the education side of the world is like, I’d rather learn from others than make all the mistakes myself. ‘Cause I run out of time. I don’t have… My life’s too short to make all the mistakes myself. I gotta learn from other people. So do you guys have an association or do you have mentors or do you have consulting arms of your entities and things that, where people…
0:46:26.5 Desmond Hayes: That’s a good idea.
0:46:27.5 Kurt Baker: Because if people try to start and do this, if I’m putting a lot of money into someone, I’m like, “Where’s your expert? Where’s your resident expert to make sure this thing’s gonna actually work?”
0:46:35.5 Desmond Hayes: That’s a good idea. For us right now, I’m the brains behind everything and running everything, but I’d love to educate people on growing this way and the benefits to it. Again, I would love to say I invented it, but I didn’t. So the information is out there. It’s just a matter of actually doing the research on it.
0:46:54.9 Kurt Baker: McDonald’s didn’t invent the hamburger either, man.
0:46:56.7 Desmond Hayes: Yeah, no.
0:46:56.9 Kurt Baker: Still they did fine.
0:46:58.6 Desmond Hayes: But the information is out there, it’s just a matter of you wanting to do it. I’ve sent people on their way from a tour and said, “Okay, if you need anything, reach out to me. I can’t say I’m gonna get back to you in five minutes, but I’ll get back to you.” And I’ve been reached out and hit up by a lot of people. Some people definitely take advantage of it a little more than others. People have come back for multiple tours just to come back and ask me some more questions and that’s fine. But in the end of the day, you still have to do it. I went out and even when my house was shambles, I went out and did it and did all this research for seven, eight years before I got to this point. I didn’t just wake up and say, “Okay, I’m gonna be a hydroponic farmer,” and not know anything about it. So R&D weighs a lot on it, but I love teaching more people about it. We’re actually in the process of creating a curriculum for high schools right now.
0:47:52.1 Kurt Baker: Okay, there you go.
0:47:53.4 Desmond Hayes: Where our kids’ book from K to third grade, that’ll be done in two weeks. So that’s another source, one of obviously revenue, but it’s also another way of getting the message out there that you can do this, this is ways to do it. It’s a cool, modernized way of doing it, and these are the benefits to it. So not only are we just consciously just working on just selling it out and just putting the product out there, we want to continue to educate people on it. That’s also why during COVID, I ended up getting a nutritionist certification. ‘Cause I didn’t want to be the guy that was just, “Here, buy my produce, buy my product,” and just trying to shove product in your face.
0:48:32.1 Desmond Hayes: No, I actually know what I’m talking about. In addition to my degree, I have this certification. These are the vitamins you’re gonna get from eating this. This is the minerals, this is how it’s gonna help the blood pressure, all these types of things. So I wanted to make sure I had that so that people didn’t think, “Okay, this guy’s a salesman.” I know what I’m talking about. So take my advice [laughter] and trust me, you’ll see some benefits. I’m not gonna tell you it’s gonna cure everything, but this would be better for you versus just doing what you probably have for a while.
0:49:00.9 Kurt Baker: Well, good food’s one of the keys and I think we’ve all discovered that. We went for that old world of processed foods and now we’re finally at least aware.
0:49:06.7 Desmond Hayes: Gotta get away from all that Chick-fil-A all the time.
0:49:08.2 Kurt Baker: We gotta get… Yeah. Chick-fil-A is fine occasionally, but not every day.
0:49:11.2 Desmond Hayes: I love it but it’s… You gotta get away from that.
0:49:12.7 Kurt Baker: You can’t do it every day.
0:49:13.7 Desmond Hayes: Yeah. Not every day. Not every day.
0:49:14.7 Kurt Baker: This has been awesome, Des. You wanted to give us any final thoughts before we sing off here?
0:49:20.0 Desmond Hayes: No. If anybody is interested in it, definitely reach out to us via our website. Apparently, the name has gotten around Rider. We actually hired or we had an intern from last summer. She was great. We miss her all the time. ‘Cause she learned so much and we had a great time with her, and I think we’re supposed to be coming back to be helping her out in one of her classes, too. But if anybody’s ever interested in it, definitely reach out to us. Love educating and teaching people about it.
0:49:47.1 Kurt Baker: All right, man. Well, I appreciate you coming on the show. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. Have a wonderful day.
0:49:53.7 ANNOUNCER: That’s all for today’s episode of Master Your Finances. Miss Kurt Baker’s biggest money managing tip, or even a full episode? Head on over to masteryourfinances.us or 1077thebronc.com/masteryourfinances. Look for Master Your Finances on Anchor, Spotify or anywhere you get your podcasts. We’ll see you next time. Only on 107.7 The Bronc.