October 20, 2015
Hydroponic Growing: The Lucrative Game Changer of Four-Season Farming
You might assume starting a hydroponic growing operation is an expensive endeavor with a lot of required upfront capital. But with how quickly these operations can start producing crops after installation, you will likely recover those upfront costs quickly.
What kind of upfront costs are we talking? As Carl Gabrielsen of Gabrielsen Farms in Long Island noted, “[Growers] can put together a great set-up for less than the cost of a new tractor.” He goes on to say that farmers already growing in a greenhouse are leaving money on the table by ignoring the opportunities presented by this nascent technology.
The success stories certainly are not limited to Long Island. Here is another article that answers one resounding question for growers in New Hampshire: “Can winter salad greens be a profitable crop for greenhouse producers who have unused space during the fall and winter months?”
Simply put, yes. Hydroponic growing works because of the economics of the produce market. We are certainly not economic masterminds but when demand outpaces supply it is time for witting farmers and growers to take note of potential supplemental cash streams available to them.
Aside from the economic benefits, hydroponic growing is on the rise for two other reasons: First, advancements in growing technology that optimizes growing conditions and creates faster growing and more robust crops. Second, the specific crops usually grown with this method are in perpetual demand.
Crops such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and more are staples of hydroponic growing. As opposed to potted plants, the traditional way to utilize greenhouse space in the colder months of the season, these plants are in demand year-round by restaurants, grocery stories, and at local farmer’s markets. Locavores in your area will rejoice and flock to this new stream of local food being produced in their area, spurring their economy, and tasting better than any other produce they can find in the depths of winter.
Don’t Waste That Hydroponic Space
From October to February, a lot of quality growing greenhouse space is squandered. This presents an opportunity for entrepreneurial growers to turn wasted space into profitable space.
And as a bonus, growing operations can offer year-round work to employees. With an ever-increasing demand for fresh produce, workers will be required throughout the entire year to meet that demand. Instead of letting go and rehiring, letting go and then going through the entire hiring process again, you’ll have a group of dedicated employees that know they have steady work throughout the year.
Trusted workers aren’t impossible to come by, but it’s sure nice to keep the ones you have, that know your business, and that don’t require a lot of time investment on your part to train each year.
Space Efficiency, Longer Shelf Life, Faster Growth
Another benefit of hydroponics is that you can grow plants much more densely than conventional, soil-based agriculture allows. Because each plant requires less space, you can have more plants per square foot of growing space.
Still not convinced? Hydroponic produce, when sold with the root system intact as they often are, also has a longer shelf life. We can’t speak for anyone but ourselves, but no one likes to waste food and spend more money. A longer shelf life helps remedy both these pain points for consumers.
Lastly, hydroponic plants grow faster so you yield faster harvests. The main catalysts for accelerated growth is that you can deliver ideal nutrients straight into the root system, the root systems are not battling neighbors for those nutrients, the climate is controlled and optimized in a greenhouse or similar indoor structure, and there are no soil borne diseases to wipe out crops.
Where To Start With Hydroponics
Learn from those already profiting from implementing hydroponic growing. Donabedian Farms, one of our customers here at Rimol Greenhouse Systems, is a prime example of how this method can help to extend your season and grow your annual profit. With the addition of a Matterhorn greenhouse optimized for growing by our partners at American Hydroponics, Donabedian Farms now delivers wholesale fresh produce to customers throughout the year.
For some growers, switching to hydroponics for the entire season just makes sense. Others might have a more established seasonal growth with customers that rely and depend on this continuing. What is certain is that more and more growers are getting hooked on hydroponics, and laughing all the way to the bank.