Answer: Besides the initial investment of greenhouse construction, labor and energy are usually the two greatest ongoing greenhouse expenses. If you can find a way to decrease costs of either, or both, of these, your chances of making a profit will be strengthened.
Greenhouses are expensive to build and operate. A commercial greenhouse (30’ x 100’) with complete heating, cooling, and ventilation systems will cost between $15,000 to $30,000 to erect and equip. The annual costs of this size greenhouse would be in the range of $6,000 to $10,000.
Prior to sinking lots of money into a greenhouse venture, it is wise to examine produce prices in your region and estimate your cost of production. Historically, the break-even price for most greenhouse tomatoes has been around 75 cents per pound, with selling prices ranging from 75 cents to $1.60 per pound. The break-even price for cucumbers is similar—around 75 cents per pound.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a free virtual greenhouse calculator, called Virtual Grower, that will give you annual costs of heating, cooling, and lighting for specific locations. It allows for inputs such as greenhouse materials, location, type of plants grown, amount of lighting, and size of greenhouse. This can give you a pretty accurate idea of your costs going into an operation.
For more information, consult the ATTRA publication Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production.
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