I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Van Gelder, CEO of Ancon Development Corporation. His 20-year background in agriculture led Gelder to mechanical crop handling and the sale and installation of agricultural buildings and storage systems. Gelder has been designing, constructing, and renovating buildings for an impressive host of private and public entities, including the US military. Now, Gelder has revolutionized the traditional greenhouse by launching the AGT Hybrid Greenhouse.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of what first introduced you into this business or helped you get interested in the business?
We were invited as a contractor to design an indoor growth facility for the cannabis industry. Essentially everything we are involved with now evolved from that interaction.
There is the big issue of electrical requirements for indoor growing. It is a non-greenhouse structure since it focuses on utilizing artificial light and not daylighting.
Many utility companies find that these grow facilities are in high demand on the electric requirements and in many cases, they can’t provide the amount of electricity that these indoor grow facilities require. Consequently, they will make the growers build sub stations. It can be incredibly expensive to build these sub stations — millions of dollars.
A lot of growers realized it would be best to do greenhouses. We were then tasked with creating a greenhouse structure for these medicinal cannabis growers. We looked around in the market and saw traditional greenhouses are still essentially the same structure as they were several years ago. These traditional greenhouses would not work because they’re not a sealed environment and did not meet the pharmaceutical requirements. Online information confirms that 20% of cannabis product has been rejected because of contamination. I started to focus on designing a greenhouse that would be a cleanroom laboratory and it has resulted in the greenhouse that we offer today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I drew from my background of 20 years in traditional crop production in the Midwest farm belt, a lot of those features were developed based on that background. On the farm, you’re always looking for maximum production, which is what is integrated into the design. The interesting part of all of this is that my background in agriculture and building all merged into one with the development of this greenhouse. I never saw this coming.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
On a personal level one of the funniest mistakes was seeing dolphins and mistaking them for sharks while learning to surf. I had recently arrived in California and had not seen either sharks or dolphins, so I confused the two.
Being human, you make a lot of mistakes and being in business can be more expensive than anything. The funniest mistake in this area has been installing something upside down and thinking it was installed correctly.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
My current project now is the whole greenhouse enterprise. Our AGT Hybrid Greenhouses and our Naturalite Buildings are essentially the same structure, but their designs serve different purposes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are plenty of people along the way. For me, it goes all the way back to being in the agriculture environment. The education that my parents offered me in that environment pushed me toward the building industry. You learn from your mistakes and move on — you are not condemned by them. My mother was incredibly supportive, because no matter what I did she supported me. The environment where I grew up allowed me to stand and go forward because you always have a fallback.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
A lot of companies are cold and robotic. I’m always going to be homey, because I want people to feel at home when I work with them. When I work with people, it’s going to be at an equal playing board. It’s the personable level that makes the distinction between companies, that strategy is what makes it worthwhile.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that most excite me about the cannabis industry are that it brings in new industry which brings in more jobs, it supports the economy and I like the medical aspect, especially for our veterans.
I don’t really have many concerns about the cannabis industry because there isn’t much of a downside to it, even in the recreational aspect. Cannabis has been canonized as an illicit drug for so long, so it’ll take time for people to get used to it.
Can you share your top “5 Things You Need to Know in Order to Run a Successful Cannabis Ancillary Company”?
We listen to what the buyers want but more importantly, we focus on delivering what the growers need in their environment to grow a successful business. Items that are important to include are: a consistent temperature, a specific humidity, an air management system and various other contributing factors to produce a great product.
Aside from your particular vertical, which other cannabis ancillary industries to you think have very strong potential in the next few years? Can you explain why?
There are a number of ancillary cannabis industries that have strong potential as the global cannabis market grows to a more than $7 billion industry.
Industries such as security services, delivery services, packaging (child-proof packaging), hydroponics, testing facilities and banking and legal services are just the short list of the industries that can benefit from cannabis.
There is a simple reason why. Ancillary industries such as ours are subject to less risk from federal prosecution and in general face fewer rules and regulations. Many ancillary business such as Ancon’s can also pivot to a different direction or vertical if regulations and legalities make doing business cost-prohibitive.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Don’t treat them as employees but treat them as business partners. Don’t tell them what to do but let them know what we’re going to do. Give employees the freedom to make mistakes. Treat employees like family members and allow them to make mistakes. It is important to create a compassionate and forgiving environment to allow them to thrive.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If you can see a means to help someone, don’t resist it, just do it spontaneously. Don’t question it or else you’ll end up regressing and regret not having done it. A lot of people need help and if your intent is to offer that help then always go through with it.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
We are consistently posting about our latest news and greenhouse features on our Twitter account (@adc_tech), Facebook account (@AnconDevelopmentCorporation) and LinkedIn account (Ancon Development Corporation).
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!