Michael Hanan has worked in the controlled environment agriculture industry for more than a decade, first as a grower and owner of a leafy greens and herbs farm in Austin, Texas, and now as the director of commercial agriculture sales in North America for Fluence.
We caught up with Hanan to learn more about how his passion for growing sustainable and profitable produce has influenced his role at Fluence.
Greenhouse Management: What inspired you to become a grower?
Michael Hanan: When I was a kid, I gardened all the time with my mom, a hobby I took with me to college. After graduation, I still had the itch to work with plants, so I began working in the nursery and landscape business. While I enjoyed landscaping, my real passion was growing food, which led me to several internships on Central Texas farms. It was during that time that a friend and I decided we wanted our own cultivation business. We started our local farm in 2012 with a passion for helping people in our community gain access to healthy, organic produce. It was the culmination of an idea and dream we’d had for years, and it connected me to the broader controlled environment agriculture industry — including the lighting experts at Fluence. Now, I get to spend my time converting my knowledge as a grower into value for our customers, helping them optimize their indoor farms and greenhouses.
GM: How has your perspective as a grower impacted your approach to Fluence’s greenhouse customers?
MH: It impacts every interaction I have with a client. Our customers are always seeking innovative ways to optimize their lighting strategies, which — as I’m sure you can imagine — was a position I found myself in when I owned a greenhouse. After tackling my own cultivation obstacles and by working with hundreds of growers to design customized lighting strategies, I understand the delicate balance of navigating capital investments with tight profit margins. The bottom line is that a supplemental lighting strategy drives year-round, high-quality crop production, fueling consistent, trusted relationships with retailers — and that’s the cultivation philosophy that I try to pass along to every customer.
GM: What’s changed during your more than 10 years in the greenhouse cultivation industry?
MH: When we built our farm in 2012, our vision was to bring locally grown, fresh produce to our community. Our vision was supported by an increasing demand from consumers for organic produce — a demand that has since grown exponentially. The world’s most innovative farms are streamlining the food supply chain and bringing their facilities closer to urban centers. Advances in indoor farming and greenhouse cultivation technology are driving production and opening new opportunities for diverse crops. Cultivators are perfecting greenhouse-grown leafy greens, cucumbers and tomatoes, and exploring how to grow more exciting crops such as peppers, berries and even melons. I expect this trend to continue, and it’s one that Fluence is proud to be a part of as we continue to work with a number of growers on the cutting edge of greenhouse cultivation.