Question of the Week
Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for resources on hydroponic greenhouse production.
General Greenhouse Production Considerations:
If you intend for this to be a profit making venture, it is very important to consider the costs and potential earnings of your enterprise. There are several enterprise budgets available for greenhouse tomatoes and other vegetables. Greenhouse vegetable yields determine potential gross sales. Much of the information in this letter is referenced from the ATTRA publication “Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production.” I would encourage you to read this publication if you have not already. This is a good introduction to the considerations you should make when planning a greenhouse operation. The authors estimate that typical yields of greenhouse tomatoes are 20 to 30 lbs. per vine, or 2-3 lbs. per square foot. Greenhouse cucumbers yield around 2 dozen fruits per vine. Greenhouse peppers yield 2½ -3 lbs./sq. ft. A study conducted in Missouri in the winter of 1995-96 showed that supplemental lighting of tomatoes increased total yields from 12,444 kg to 18,840 kg. Because the lighted tomatoes were larger, they brought a better price and resulted in additional revenues of $25,000.
Prior to sinking lots of money into a greenhouse venture, growers should examine produce prices in their region and estimate their cost of production. Historically, the breakeven price for most greenhouse tomatoes has been around 75 cents per pound, with selling prices ranging from 90 cents to $1.60 per pound. The break-even price for cucumbers is similar–around 75 cents per pound. Estimates of net income from conventional greenhouse tomatoes range from $3,100 to $18,500 per greenhouse unit. These estimates are for good yields and favorable market conditions. Low yields, or a dip in the market, can lead to negative returns to the grower.
The following estimates from 1994 are associated with a double polyethylene greenhouse: the greenhouse itself would cost about $6-$7 per square foot; land cost, site preparation, foundations, concrete floors, and utilities would be an extra $3.50-$4.00 per square foot.
The ATTRA resource list “Greenhouse and Hydroponic Resources on the Internet,” contains several enterprise budgets for regular greenhouse crops (i.e. not hydroponic).
Some other web-based enterprise budgets are listed below:
Ohio State University Hydroponic web site has an interactive enterprise budgeting tool.
North Florida Greenhouse Cash Flow analysis
A cash flow analysis using tomatoes as an example
For general information on business planning and how to construct a good one see this overview:
Ag Alternatives: Business Planning—the Pennsylvania State University
General information about organic hydroponic production:
The power point presentation by Dr. Mary Peet from North Carolina State University overviews some organic substitutions for nutrient and pest management in hydroponic systems. Also the publication titled “Organic Hydroponics” discusses, mainly, different types of nutrient solution options for an organic hydroponic operation. The link to both of these publications is listed below under “Further Resources,” however, the “Organic Hydroponics” article is from Growing Edge magazine, and they charge $5.00 for obtaining this publication. I have also listed an additional link to a study the Mary Peet did on maintaining nutrient balances in organic soluble fertilizers.
Consultants and Suppliers:
In most circumstances, larger scale commercial greenhouse suppliers have technical staff that consult you on set-up and design of your greenhouse facility. I have listed greenhouse suppliers, as well as companies that have categorized themselves as hydroponic consultants.
They provide both consulting and supplies. They offer supplies and consulting for large scale hydroponic oprations. Colorado has several large-scale hydroponic operations in the state.
P.O. Box 25845
Colorado Springs, CO 80936-5845
They are commercial suppliers of hydroponic greenhouses and equipment with limited consulting.
“Agro Dynamics is focused on supplying innovative, state-of-the-art and high quality products.” They provide both consulting and greenhouse and hydroponic supplies.
204 Airline Drive ; Suite 900
Coppell, TX 75019
Tel: (+) 800 872-2476
Fax: (+) 972 829-8039
English/ Spanish e-mail: email@example.com
Crop King consults, provides workshops, and sells commercial-scale hydroponic systems. Below is a link to a price list of their gutter connected greenhouses. These are most commonly used in large scale commercial operations.
Below is a link to training opportunities on hydroponic production:
Landers, Melvin. 2001. Organic Hydroponics. Growing Edge. May/ June 2001.
This is a back issue that Growing Edge is currently charging $5.00 for. The link to order it and other relevant hydroponic information online is:
Peet, Mary. (no date). Organic Hydroponics. North Carolina State University. Power Point Presentation.
Maintaining Nutrient Balances in Systems Utilizing Soluble Organic Fertilizers
Janet Miles and Mary Peet, NCSU
OFRF Project Report, June 2002
Diver, Steve. 2000. Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production
Horticulture Systems Guide. ATTRA Publication #IP078
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