pictures available sample
About 5 miles from the ocean Rincon-Vitova is ideally situated for growing
bugs and using solar energy. It doesn't get too hot or too cold and the sun
shines most days, except for some June gloom. In the narrow Ventura river
valley, there is a 45 minute sunrise delay and sunset advance. But not much
solar production takes place before 10 am or after 6 pm so no major reduction
from that effect. In the rainy season it takes just a bit of heat to start the
process of rearing grain moths before the body heat of millions of caterpillars
maintains the process. The moths are collected and are used as a host for a moth
egg parasite and as food for lacewing larva, a general predator. Morning and
evening breezes breathe through the valley providing natural cooling. This cools
the solar panels ensuring a long productive life, possibly 50 years. To cool the
insects, doors to the cargo container rearing units are opened to the breezes.
Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc. produces lacewing - a general predator, fly
parasites - part of a fly control program, and Rhyzobius - a scale
destroying ladybug. Rincon-Vitova also distributes many other insects grown by
other insectaries. Half of their business is in fly control and the other half
is plant pest control for agriculture, horticulture and interiorscape.
Rincon-Vitova grows two million flies daily as host for the fly parasites. Just
down the road from Hollywood they also supply adult flies and maggots to animal
handlers for movies and TV productions such as Fear Factor and CSI.
The main focus of the company is helping customers set up programs to control
pests using biological control. They assist farmers (and landscapers) to get off
the pesticide treadmill by making the next little step that the farmer can see
himself taking. It is a slow process, but one on which an increasing number of
farmers is embarking. Currently 5% of California farms are organic and it seems
that at least half of the rest are trying to reduce the amount and toxicity of
the pesticides they are using. Strategically, Rincon-Vitova is structuring
itself for rapid growth.
Jan Dietrick, general manager of Rincon-Vitova, expects the photovoltaic (PV)
system to pay for itself in seven years at current energy prices. She has little
faith that future energy prices will remain as (low) as they are. She sees the
investment in PV as prepaying her company's electric bill. After a few years,
that portion of her bill will be free. After much consultation 3 years ago,
Dietrick decided on a 5 KW PV system that would replace about 10% of
Rincon-Vitova's electric usage. She planned to buy new energy efficient
equipment, insulate, change or delete some processes and generally economize so
that the 5 KW produced would supply close to 50% of the company's electric
needs. She is well on her way to meeting that goal.
The PV system is attractive on its own merits, but the state of California
had a rebate program that paid for almost half of the installed cost of the
system. The current phase of the program will pay 20 to 30 % of the cost.
Dietrick applied for a low interest loan (4%) from SAFE-BIDCO a funding
organization that was funded by a court settlement of a suit against energy
utility companies for rate gouging. She notes that tax incentives and accounting
procedures further reduce the financial burden of her solar investment. She
wonders out loud, "Why isn't everyone doing this?"
The 32 panels producing 185 watts each 2.7 X 5.2 feet, cover 550 square feed
of south facing roof space. This reduces the heat load on the roof, keeping the
building cooler, and extending the life of the roof. A platform on the other
side of the roof will house the bee hive. Ron Whitehurst, marketing manager, is
a hobby beekeeper.
RVI's next project will be to install solar collectors to capture the suns
heat to warm its insect rearing rooms. Insects require 80 degree F heat to
reproduce rapidly and stay healthy. To produce this heat RVI has used primarily
gas heaters with some supplemental electric heat. This has been a burden of
overhead for the company and led to problems from the drying nature of the heat
and occasional failure of heaters. The planned hydronic heating, where pipes are
laid on the floor of a room and covered with concrete, produces a very even heat
and makes humidity control easy - just spray water on the floor.
Reducing the need for power is another strategy for increasing energy
independence and decreasing operating expenses. Rincon-Vitova Insectaries,
installed a new energy efficient walk in refrigerator to replace an ancient
inefficient refrigerated cargo shipping container. Insulation was placed in the
ceiling of some insect rearing rooms and an office area to increase heating
efficiency. An office rehab will be snuggly wrapped in insulation and have
double glazed windows to isolate the workers inside from outside temperatures
and the traffic sounds of nearby Highway 33.
Gray water from a shower and office rehab is pumped into elevated tanks to
supply landscaping with water. The landscaping is primarily food producing
plants. Called foodscaping, this provides the employees with fresh fruits and
vegetables throughout the year. A diverse mix of mature citrus, plums, avocados,
sapote, persimmon and olive provide interesting fare. Newly planted grapes,
passion fruit, and kiwi promise good eating in future years. One of the plants,
prickly pear, will produce leaves or pads that will be food for scale that in
turn will feed a scale eating ladybug. Some non productive palms were given to a
nursery which relocated them to other landscapes where they will be appreciated.
Waste products from rearing flies are composted and the resulting compost is
spread around the foodscape, and offered to gardeners in the community.
RVI borders the hike and bike trail that runs from the ocean at the mouth of
the Ventura, up to Ojai. A sister non-profit organization, the Dietrick
Institute for Applied Insect Ecology, maintains trail side plantings of
beneficial insect attracting plants. One section is habitat developed by Joe
Picket of California Department of Agriculture for whitefly and the parasites of
whitefly. This has been successfully used in Kern county next to cotton fields
to reduce whitefly infestations - the major pest of cotton in the region. On a
bank is a variety of yarrows that attract beneficial insects, hold the soil, and
provide a colorful display. A section of perennial sunflowers (Jerusalem
artichokes) demonstrate plants that have both attractive flowers (for insects
and people) and extrafloral nectarines that support insect predators and
parasites. Annual and perennial seed mixes such as Beneficial Blend and Insecta
Flora can be seen in other sections.
Dietrick believes that our national energy policy is distorted with focus on
fossil fuels and that individual consumers, voting with their dollars for solar
energy, can shift the balance to a more sensible mix. If a small portion of the
300 billion dollars spent on the Iraq war to make the world safe for cheap oil,
had been spent on solar development, we wouldn't have to turn outside of our
country for our energy needs.
A use permit was in process and a building permit was blocked until a
conditional use permit was completed. Supervisor Steve Bennet's office working
with the planning department was instrumental in getting a permit to install the
solar equipment before a state deadline. Rincon-Vitova is grateful for their
These are some of the steps that one company is taking on the path towards
sustainability. Feel free to join the walk.
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- Produce beneficial insects and organisms designed by nature to control
- Distribute organisms and supplies from reputable companies
- Support our customers with the most current technical information
- Donate 20% of profits to research and training activities of the Dietrick
Institute for Applied Insect Ecology, a non-profit organization promoting
research and training in beneficial insect conservation and biocontrol.
- Make responsible choices in social and environmental practices; i.e., we
refuse to use or recommend genetically engineered (transgenic) products -
which are incompatible with sustainable agriculture and life, and we use
no-frills, recyclable packaging.
- Meet distributor needs to foster an expanding network of biocontrol
experts representing the industry founded by our company over 30 years ago.
We are the oldest and one of the largest commercial
insectaries and have been the pioneer in biological control since the late 1950's
for a growing biocontrol industry. We maintain distinction within the industry
in our development work and in our emphasis on building habitat diversity and
conserving natural enemies. This ensures biological control programs that are
cost-effective. Rincon-Vitova continues a 40 year record meeting the challenges
of commercial standardization, government regulations and marketing in a rapidly
We produce insects and distribute insects and other organisms
reared by domestic and international producers. Our producers are skilled in
their specialties and meet our quality standards. We support quality wholesalers
and skilled biological pest control advisors with preferred service, technical
advice and sales support. We proudly serve over 2000 large and small farms,
nurseries, green houses, landscape and interior plantscapers, livestock and
composting operations, hotels and resorts, zoos, botanical gardens, government
agencies, many research institutions, and private residences. Our customers
remember us for the vitality of our products, knowledgeable service, our
friendly follow-up support and our guarantee. Our search for products that
support our expanding vision of biological control has recently lead us to
distribute mycorrhizal inoculants, insectary blend seed mixes, and cover crop
We give our customers reliable access to the best quality of
all commercially available beneficial organisms along with practical information
targeted to the customers' needs and referral to further resources. We measure
our success in receiving dozens of inquiries weekly from those who are referred
by professionals directly or through directories, source books, databases,
publications, presentations, and exhibitions. Rincon-Vitova does not use or
carry products containing or generated by genetically engineered (transgenic)
organisms. We believe that genetic engineering is incompatible with sustainable
agriculture and life.
We package in no-frills recyclable containers.