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Meet Matthew Braud of Sustainable Harvesters in Northwest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Braud.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Matthew. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a Houston native but attended school in Louisiana for my undergrad. Upon graduating from Louisiana State University in 2011 I returned back to Houston.

My business partner and I knew that we had entrepreneurial drive but didn’t know how to focus that energy. It quickly became clear to us that the Houston food scene was hot and that there must be some way that two agricultural business majors could find our place within it.

Not long after moving back we started compiling a business plan that required us to get a real pulse of the food industry from all points of view. We approached the restaurant chefs, distribution companies and farmers markets and soon learned about the strong movement toward products marketed as local, sustainable, and organic.

After pulling together all of our notes we decided to branch off from traditional agriculture and design a system using aquaponic growing techniques. Aquaponics combines two modern grow practices; Hydroponics (growing plants in a soilless, or “water” environment, and Aquaculture (raising fish in a controlled environment). Basically, the fish provide the nutrients to the plant through a series of gravity fed filtration devices and then absorbed by the roots of the plants. The end result allows us to redistribute that water below the roots back to the fish tanks in a closed loop. This is where Sustainable Harvesters was born…..

Our first greenhouse was built in 2013 and allowed us to grow popular produce items like kale, basil, and lettuce 365 days out of the year! We eventually narrowed down our product list just to include various varieties of leafy green/red lettuce. By minimizing our products we were then able to maximize our efficiency. After 2 years of building up a respectable client list, we reinvested into the business to expand to 3 greenhouses.

Along with selling products, our mission also included providing tours and research opportunities for educating people of all ages about the benefits of sustainable agriculture. We also partnered with local school districts to provide them with a similar growing system that could be used in the classrooms.

Our business has been going strong for 5+ years now and we are currently going through another expansion which will add on 2 more greenhouses.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Traditional farming techniques haven’t changed for thousands of years so approaching farming in a completely unorthodox way like aquaponics doesn’t come without its struggles. It has taken time to develop certain operational procedures that help us stay competitive with similar product being grown in California. These procedures have been advanced over time but in the beginning, we were on the front lines of “trial and error”

We can now plant 5000 heads of lettuce in less than an hour but during the start, we would do the same amount in 3x the time.

We have also learned the hard way about distribution… At first, we would market our products directly to local restaurants which we would then deliver to almost every day out of the week. In addition, we would spend our entire weekend participating in farmers markets… Once we increased our production we obtained distribution clients that would handle selling and delivering products or us. Because of these distribution companies we now consistently deliver product to Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas…

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Communication and consistency.

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Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Darcy Grube

    March 30, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Love the fishies!

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