Owning a greenhouse can make growing rows of green leafy plants seem so easy, but in reality, actual production is more difficult than it seems. The world is changing, with production costs gradually rising over the years, and governments implementing stricter environmental regulations, more vegetable producers are forced to adopt new methods and systems of production. While there are many methods, vegetable production in greenhouses is all about the right fit. Apart from being closely built on sound horticultural production techniques, it also needs to be efficient. Here are 5 systems that can be helpful to install in your greenhouse depending on the type of crops you grow.
NFT and Hydroponics Systems
Nutrient film technique (NFT) is a hydroponic technique whereby a low level of water containing dissolved nutrients streams through. Traditionally, the water required for plant growth is then re-circulated past the bare roots of plants. In more commercial settings nowadays, there have been many improvements made to the system. For example in lef Farms, their hybrid NFT system plays a large role in helping to conserve resources while exacerbating production timelines. The peat mold does a great job in reducing pests’ populations and creating a conducive environment for composting. While hybrid NFT systems are rather popular, fully automated NFT systems are also hot in the market – using conveyor belts to move the crops through its full cycle. Having the system automated is a good way to elevate labor shortage as traditional systems require manpower at every stage.
Similarly, deep water culture (DWC) systems are also rather popular among greenhouse farmers. Considered to be hydroponics in its basic form, this system works by having plant roots dangle directly into the pool of water filled with nutrients. For large scale operations, DWC systems with a raft are preferred over the other systems. As technology has evolved, even hydroponic substrate growth has been transformed. This is evident in what Oasis Grower Solutions have used for their own greenhouse and estimates that hydroponic systems will flourish over the next few years. Farmers have yet to reach a common consensus on whether upgraded or traditional NFT systems are better, but for now, to each his own. While NFT as a whole seems to be promising, it does have its fair share of disadvantages as well. The future of automation will not be cheap and will eventually translate into more hefty prices. There is also a mixed debate on the tastiness of the products depending on the systems its farmers adopt.
It is recommended that for farmers growing organic crops that adopting such systems does not guarantee you certification as using mammal fertilizers can potentially also bring about animal-based diseases in plants.
Aquaponic systems essentially consist of plants getting their nutrients from fish waste. This works when both plants and fish live together in the same environment. This is advantageous to vegetable growers as they can produce a protein source and crops in just a tiny body of water. Fishes such as Tilapia commonly thrive in aquaponic systems due to its temperature of about 74 degrees. In addition, extra fertilizers are not necessary as all nutrients are biologically produced by the fishes already. While this system could bring about great benefits, it requires careful monitoring almost all week. If a problem arises in your aquaponic system and you don’t discover it in time, it could potentially lead to consequences such as losing both vegetables and fishes. It is recommended that vegetable farmers take the right precautions when attempting to integrate both ecosystems together.
Vertical Growing Systems
Vertical farming can be seen as a snapshot of what the future may be like. Great for greenhouses or vegetable growers who face space constraints, vertical growing systems essentially use racks to stack crops on top of each other. The system has also proven to be what draws millennials into the plant-growing culture. In many parts of the world, millennials view farming as a dying trade. Implementing such high-tech systems is a good way to introduce young people to the profession. However, this system has skeptics doubting its effectiveness. When stacked together, there will always be plants that might not receive the same amount of light as others, which can potentially hinder their growth. While not enough has been done to prove that vertical growing systems are better, there are cases in which vertical systems yield fewer crops compared to traditional systems.
Aeroponics systems have been gaining popularity among vegetable farmers in the past couple of years. Known for their ability to foster plant growth quickly and their suitability to those working under space constraints, aeroponic systems essentially target the root of plants – providing plant nutrients directly through its roots. The system is meant to work without sun nor soil. At this point in time, most adopters of the aeroponic systems are running smaller-scale operations but more commercial operations are also looking to adopt this system. While the system may seem promising at this stage, farmers need to exercise precaution as there is currently a lack of studies showing how this might work better for commercial operators. On top of that, the system might come with technical difficulties and maintenance problems as well.
Finding the Right System
Finding the right system for your crops is important. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and determining which system is the best for your crops requires you to understand your plants from the inside out. Depending on the environment you live in and the types of plant that is being grown, there will be different systems that will cater to that. The world of greenhouse growing systems can be hard to navigate for a rookie farmer.
All in all, there are pros and cons to every system. It really boils down to how well you know your greenhouse. While hydroponics might be known to be the future of farming in the next 30 years, no one can be too sure what the future holds for the green industry.