(UPDATED COVERAGE, 2:07 p.m.) Lipman, known for its field-grown tomato operations, is entering the greenhouse business.

In November, the Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman finished construction of a 5-acre greenhouse in Naples, Fla.

Lipman enters greenhouse dealThe Cravo retractable-roof greenhouses protect crops from cold temperatures and wind and rain and should help extend the season by accelerating plant growth and produce more quality tomatoes, said Gerry Odell, Lipman’s chief farming officer.

Though the grower-shipper remains in the experimental stages of greenhouse production, Odell said Lipman is commercially shipping small quantities of a high-flavor grape tomato variety. He said the greenhouse is also growing round and heirloom tomatoes.

Though Lipman has marketed greenhouse cucumbers through a Mexican partnership, Odell said the company plans to initially focus on tomatoes.

He said the entrance into greenhouse production won’t mean a drop in field production.

A short season and higher labor costs than competitors in Mexico also comes with greenhouse tomatoes, he said.

Lipman enters greenhouse deal“There’s obviously a lot of demand at retail for tomatoes grown in protective agriculture,” Odell said. “... The challenge is to develop a hybrid system that allows you to produce tomatoes that are protected and give you yields and quality at a per-unit cost that will keep you competitive in the marketplace.”

Florida’s greenhouse season runs late November until early May before heat prevents fruit setting, Odell said.

He said the greenhouse program works with Lipman’s sustainability efforts.

Lipman grows tomatoes and other vegetables in south and central Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, central California and Mexico, and offers distribution, repacking and logistics services throughout the U.S.