Today we’d like you to meet Rudy Clark-Luera, one of our go-to experts in the world of hydroponic equipment.
As a seasoned salesman at AmHydro (he’s been with the company for 18 years!), Rudy has built a reputation for his unparalleled knowledge of hydroponic systems and his commitment to providing top-notch customer service.
With years of experience in the industry, Rudy has a deep understanding of the various products and techniques used in hydroponic agriculture. This, combined with his passion for the trade and his personable approach, makes Rudy a valuable resource for anyone looking to get into hydroponic farming or upgrade their existing setup.
Putting down Roots
Rudy wasn’t always an evangelist for hydroponics. Growing up in Houston, TX, he didn’t know a thing about farming. “No one I knew ever grew any produce. The closest I got was mowing lawns and pruning roses.” At age ten, Rudy would pack up and move with his Dad to Bakersfield, CA. It was there he met the love of his life.
After graduating, Rudy’s high school sweetheart was accepted into Humboldt State University in Northern California, and Rudy was determined to follow. The two of them found a rental about 30 minutes from town that offered a unique opportunity. It was on a farm whose owner spent most of his time at a shop in town.
“We were young and dumb. This guy had us both paying rent and working his farm as a condition of living there. But we put in a garden that was our own, and we kept adding to it. Growing veggies, flowers and herb starts. We were able to sell some of our own products in town at farmers markets and to restaurants. It’s where I found my love of growing.”
Rudy also ended up enrolling at Humboldt State, taking on additional jobs to help with the bills. The ungainly balance of school, work, and farming prompted a move back into town. “It was awhile before I could have my own farm again,” he says, “but wherever we rented, we always kept a garden.”
Soil or Bust?
By 2005, Rudy was married with a family and working for AmHydro – though primarily in the warehouse, preparing systems for shipment. It was just a job. He wasn’t exactly a fan of the technology at that point.
“I was one of those people that’s just all about organic soil. To me, hydroponics might as well have been poison.
I was naive. I was working in the warehouse mixing natural compounds for customers to have nutrient solution, and complaining to myself that since I couldn’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, it must not have been truly from nature.”
Rudy’s passion for clean and sustainable farming grew and after a few years working for AmHydro, it was time to take it to the big time and go commercial. Rudy was appointed to lead their expanding Commercial Hydroponics division. Previously most of their products had been aimed at hobbyists looking to grow produce self-sufficiently, but there was a growing awareness that hydroponics could be used to grow produce on a large scale.
“That was when my involvement with hydroponics really started. When I realized that it really was natural, and most importantly, that it could actually grow produce as well as I could in my own garden! Not only is the quality there, but it’s just so much better to work at a table, not digging around in the dirt. I cared about the process and the plants. There was no status for me in dirty hands.”
Sharing the Wealth of Knowledge
“I learned a lot in the greenhouse in those early days. It helps me help people now.”
Through his role in sales for AmHydro, Rudy has a daily opportunity to speak with people who are interested in getting started. He’s developed a wealth of advice along the way. The market for hydroponics is growing. It’s a popular trend. But many people don’t realize how much money is needed to start up.
“I always recommend that people start smaller than their biggest plans. You can always expand later. I sometimes get 2-3 calls a day from people who are curious, interested, and excited. Their location would love to have fresh produce. But then they realize the type of investment required to realize their full dream, and it can be really daunting. But it’s always better to start reasonably and then grow. The last thing you want is a greenhouse full of produce that you can’t sell.”
Sometimes people get themselves in trouble in an attempt to take shortcuts for saving costs or maximizing profits. Rudy has dealt with many prospective growers that try to buy AmHydro equipment piecemeal for their own DIY systems. He’s dealt with inexperienced growers that only want to dive straight into growing hydroponic vine crops (much more intensive and slow than leafy greens). And he’s dealt with prospective growers that get caught in the allure of unproven vertical indoor technology. [To learn more about vertical systems vs traditional, check out this recent article from AmHydro VP Joe Swartz.]
At the end of the day, Rudy’s experience as a farmer, (and as a rep working with many other farmers) have all confirmed the same thing: If you want the greatest chance of success in growing food in an economically sustainable way, you can’t do better than purchasing a system from AmHydro.
“The NFT systems are just so simple. It’s gravity. There’s one pump. And it proves itself in the produce it grows. We’ve been in the business for almost 40 years. That should say a lot. You can try to make it better, and we always are, but the basic technology is so tried and tested. It just works.”
To get in touch with Rudy or the rest of our team, click here. We’d love to talk and make sure you all have all the information you need to pursue your hydroponic farming goals!