READ ON: Pros and Cons before investing in greenhouse farming
There is this time-tested advice that you should only lend what you can afford to lose. The same advice applies if you are considering investing in a greenhouse. True, there is money in greenhouse farming. But it is not easy money, as the aggressive sellers of greenhouse technology would want farmers to believe.
Greenhouse technology is the unique technique of providing favorable conditions to the plants. Growing plants is both an art and science. In spite of many challenges man has learnt how to grow plant under natural environment. Even in extreme adverse climatic conditions where no crops can grow, man has developed a method of growing high value crops which is called as Greenhouse Technology.
This method is used to protect the plants from adverse climatic condition to the plants such as cold, wind, precipitation, excessive radiation, extreme temperature, insects and disease. In Green house technology the environmental conditions are modified using green house / glass house so that one can grow any plant in any place at any time by providing suitable environmental conditions with less labour.
Greenhouses are framed or inflated structures covered with transparent or translucent material large enough to grow crops under partial or fully controlled environmental conditions to get optimum growth and productivity.
When greenhouse growing first began in the 13th century, it served as a way to appease royalty’s nutritional demands, house foreign tropical plants for study, and grow medicinal plants. Commonly found among the wealthy class citizens, eventually the science of greenhouse growing expanded to universities where research could be continued and eventually published.
Today, with the surge of new and innovative technology within the agriculture industry, operating a greenhouse isn’t limited to just the wealthy and universities, but to anyone with a desire to start their own business or even just to incorporate new methods of sustainable living into their everyday lives.
Greenhouse farming has gained popularity in the modern world, because of the advantages it offers over conventional type of farming. In this article, we will discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of Greenhouse Farming, which are paramount especially for people, organizations or governments intending to venture into the practice.
ADVANTAGES of Greenhouse Farming
Extend your growing season. Any farmer knows planting crops outside depends wholly on weather patterns and conditions that must be suitable for seeds to take root and thrive. With a greenhouse, many different techniques can be used to keep the temperatures stable, causing less stress to the plants and promoting strong growth much earlier in the year. Some popular techniques involve creating thermal solar mass by using natural materials that readily absorb, store and release thermal heat, and using man-made heaters and heating fans.
Expanding the variety among your produce. As vegetables come in and out of season, prices fluctuate accordingly based on availability, demand, and production methods among many others. Investing in a greenhouse gives your operation the opportunity to provide a variety of different produce on the “off season” creating greater availability for your customers in times of low supply and also having the ability to grow new produce or flowers that do not typically thrive in your climate. Not having to worry about external elements gives you almost complete control to provide the best growing environment for your crops.
Minimize external threats to your crops. There’s nothing worse than coming out to your newly sprouted seedlings to find that a furry little bunny made a tasty salad out of the dainty leaves that once occupied your defenseless new stems. And just like that, the little bunny doesn’t seem so cute anymore. While rabbits aren’t the worst of your worries when it comes to your crops, in your greenhouse, you control what comes in and goes out. Besides providing shelter from threatening weather, this control allows you to minimize the introduction and spreading of diseases, pesky varmints waiting to snatch up your delicious greenery and to control temperatures to keep your plants from getting too chilly.
Increased yields. 10-12% increase in yield depending upon the type of greenhouse, type of crop, environmental control facilities
Ease of operation. Statistics shows that the average Kenyan farmer is about 60 years old. What this means is that the agribusiness industry is gradually aging and young people should take over. Unfortunately most youths are shying away from this multi-billion industry. But with greenhouse cultivation technology, There are possibilities to mechanize or computerize almost every operation in the greenhouse.
A good example is automated drip irrigation, temperature detectors, humidity sensors, timers and other states of the art accessories added in the greenhouse to make your work a breeze. Working in the greenhouse isn’t difficult either. A well designed and planned greenhouse will enable you to carry out operations as would in your office!
Serves as a storage of your farm tools. Instead of cluttering your service area, backyard, garage or even your house with farm tools, why not store them in your greenhouse.
DISADVANTAGES to Greenhouse Farming
High upfront and operating expenses. In order to utilize a greenhouse to the best of its ability, you’ll need to invest in a kit or supplies that will have a good lifespan and proper characteristics for the plants you want to grow. For example, cheaper film plastics may provide sufficient conditions to retain heat, but more expensive glass windows will last longer and may help ventilate the greenhouse if able to be opened. With maximum climate control, comes the potential for a very high operating cost. If you choose to heat your greenhouse via electronic heaters or by way of gas, you’ll see a serious increase in your monthly bills.
Pesky pests and lack of pollination. While having a greenhouse can help you control most of what your plants come in contact with, one or two plants carrying pests like whiteflies or other diseases can quickly spread to the rest of your plants, sabotaging your entire crop. Careful precautions must be taken to eliminate any pests or diseases to make sure your next crop won’t be affected.
Location adjustment. When it comes to location, greenhouses are cannot be adjusted once you built them. On the other hand, outdoor can be altered and adjusted as the existing needs. Greenhouse farming is therefore preferred in cases where there is restrictive farming, or where the place requires too much preparation due to the presence of rocks or absence of soil.
High maintenance cost. Greenhouse structures require more resources to maintain compared to in-ground gardens. For example, you need to protect greenhouses from low temperatures and strong winds through insulation. Even though in-ground gardens demand high control of pests and weeds, this can be carried out through mechanical methods.
Knowledge and skills required. Moreover, greenhouse farming requires professional knowledge and skills in regulating the environment. In the event the farmer does not have the required skills, this could result into an extra cost through hiring qualified personnel. Nonetheless, greenhouse farming is the best option in areas that have harsh climatic conditions, which do not favor normal in-ground farming.
A greenhouse is an all in one resource and is undoubtedly your only option if you want to succeed in agribusiness, when carefully planned, built, and maintained, creating the potential for an increase in revenue or a means of saving. Make sure to research all of your options before committing to one style or method.
One effective way farmers can get into the greenhouse farming business is through organising themselves into groups or cooperatives and pool resources to start joint greenhouse projects. It will be easier to hire professional managers, get training from experts, organise study tours, seek financial support from government and private financial institutions, and look for markets.