By James Walsh
Published: 2:00 AM - 07/23/14
NEW WINDSOR — Continental Organics, the New Windsor aquaponic grower of fish and greens, is seeking a $10 million federal loan guarantee for its second expansion since last year.
The plans will nearly double the size of the plant to 225,000 square feet of indoor gardens that produce crops including kale, sorrel and Swiss chard, as well as giant vats near the greenhouses where tilapia and coho salmon are raised.
Plans call for building three greenhouses, expanding a compost plant, installing a geothermal cooling system for the salmon house and expanding the raised-bed outdoor garden, said CEO Michael Finnegan. The project follows a $5.7 million expansion that will be completed in about six weeks. That added three greenhouses, as well as tomato and compost houses.
Schumer backing bid
The company has 42 employees. Finnegan said about 26 full-time workers, plus some part-time ones, will be added after the expansion. It's expected the work will start and finish in 2015.
Sen. Charles Schumer said Tuesday he was advocating for the loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said in a prepared statement that the "home-grown" business boosted the local economy by employing residents and adding to the region's agricultural bounty.
"We should do all we can to support innovative, job-creating companies like Continental that are primed for growth, but just need a little kick start," Schumer said in the statement.
Finnegan said having the federal government guarantee the loan will help the lead bank, Orange County Trust Co., assemble a team of lenders to finance the project.
The company uses a closed-loop system that delivers uneaten fish food and fish droppings to fertilize the greenhouse gardens. The first crops were planted in March 2012, and fish-raising began in December 2012.
Continental distributes fish and vegetables within a 30-mile radius to customers including Adams Fairacre Farms, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, restaurants and the region's farmers markets.