This article appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
The Miller family has been in the manufacturing and integration business for nearly 40 years. Today, Miller Industries is the largest manufacturing facility in Fenton and Co-Principals Matt and Chad Miller are proud to bring quality employment opportunities to their growing community. The brothers learned the importance of ensuring their company is a family valued organization from their father, Tom Miller.
Miller is comprised of four divisions that range from custom steel fabrication to air handling units and modular systems as well as a manufacturer representative division which offers specialty applied, engineered products exclusively for the HVAC industry.
Michael Groh, Miller’s Vice President of Mission Critical, sees unlimited growth potential for their newest division, MiFarmPod™. The concept began in 2017 when, Groh says, “We realized that, having worked for many years in the paint finishing industry where temperature and humidity are key to a great car finish, we were perfectly suited for manufacturing modular grow facilities.”
How We’re Innovating
We work with various types of industries. I think that is what makes Miller so unique. We are not stuck serving just one group of “people” with one product — we have multiple products and a broad skill set to serve industries all over the world. We come together as a group to talk about the ideas on what we can do next.
Their team already had all the product design and engineering experience needed to create a consistent, repeatable environment by regulating temperature, humidity, air movement, CO2 and filtration. So they began developing MiFarmPod, which creates the ideal atmosphere for indoor growing ecosystems.
The 60-by-30-foot pods are built in their facility, prepared for shipping, and installed on site, providing 2,400-square-feet of canopy in a single enclosure. “It’s truly a turnkey solution,” says Groh. The result is a completely sustainable “greenhouse” that can produce healthy cannabis or other crops regardless of the outdoor climate.
But unlike greenhouses, the pods don’t rely on sunlight.
Our Next Goal
To grow MiFarmPod. We have had this project in development since 2017, when it was just a blimp of an idea. We have grown faster than we anticipated and look forward to working with new clients and new states. We want to show that engineering, agriculture and the HVAC industries can all benefit from each other with this ever-growing product. I want to be four times as big as we are now (finishing 2021), and we are working with some big names in the industry that will help take us to market across the nation.
“They create a virtual sunup and sundown, the lights continue to stay on at night to take advantage of off-peak power,” Groh says. “It’s a completely controlled environment, built with positive air pressure and web-based controls for monitoring.”
The pods are accessed by using a keycard, and personnel must first pass through a vestibule with an interlock door where the system blows off any contaminants before the growing area can be accessed. Miller’s proprietary air distribution and filtration system is patent pending, and it increases plant safety and product purity by removing sources of contamination throughout the growth cycle.
Even with the current supply chain issues, and the price of steel fluctuating daily, Groh says they can build, ship and install a complete MiFarmPod in a fraction of the time it would take to build a comparable solution with conventional construction. “It’s all about speed to the market,” he says. The units are completely state-of-the-art and come complete with security cameras, rolling racks and trays.
Best Part of My Job
The diversity of projects and people I get to work with. From Miller to Flex Air to MiFarmPod, every project is different. There may be similar contributing factors to a project but we try to cater to the custom aspect of our products.
Outdoor growing operations are limited by weather and normally only see one harvest a year. Greenhouses can be operational year-round, but the lighting needs to be controlled and plants are often lost to pathogens and bugs among other issues. The modular MiFarmPods regulate light (intensity, spectrum, duration and intervals), nutrient concentration and nutrient pH (acidity).
Being a legacy company with over 40 years in business, the MiFarmPod project is yet another example of Miller’s ability to adapt and look toward the future. Groh says they’re working on their 2.0 design now and are excited to continue to grow in this area while also supporting farms and food cultivation.
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