The food and agribusiness industry is quite large and wields so many business opportunities. In Africa, for instance, it is postulated that in the next 10 years that industry is going to become worth as much as US$1 trillion. So there is no question about how this is a hit industry for aspiring entrepreneurs. On the farming side though there are some challenges emanating from climate change. Most areas are becoming increasingily hot and rainfall is now extremely erratic. This calls upon farmers to start considering farming methods that allow them to create and regulate their own growing environments. One way to do that is through vertical farming but we will not be focusing on that today. Rather we shall be discussing about greenhouse farming as a panacea to climate change. Vegetable farming (a component of horticulture) is a very strategic farming specialization these days too. So taking the two i.e. greenhouse farming and vegetable farming and combining them makes for a very profitable business venture. In this article we delve into how you can start such a business.
Key Requirements And Components
First and foremost it is essential to understand how a greenhouse functions. We shall just briefly explain that in layman terms for easy understanding. Greenhouses are meant to induce a certain microclimate in the enclosed growing area of the greenhouse. How does that happen? A greenhouse confines the air inside it thus barring it from interacting with the external environment. This achieved by the greenhouse cover which is move given to letting sunlight through as opposed to letting out what is emitted by the internal environment. This suggests that the most optimum microclimates for greenhouses are achieved during cold weather or seasons. Conversely, when it is hot measures must be put in place to regulate the microclimate since temperatures can become too high inside. All this means you must know and understand the thermal requirements of the various vegetables so that you know how to create the optimum environment for them.
In the light of the above you must understand that regulating the microclimate can be costly due to the specialized equipment or systems needed. As a rule of thumb there are guidelines to aid you in knowing how to handle your microclimate. Supposing your location is inland it is recommended that optimum microclimate temperature falls between 12 and 17 degrees Celsius. For those in locations in coast lands then temperatures must range from 12 to 22 degrees Celsius. So what does this mean? If you are in any of those locations and your microclimate temperatures do not fall in those ranges then you must regulate it. You would have to use cooling or heating systems and in some cases ventilation systems.
Greenhouses can be plastic or glass-based though the plastic option tends to be cheaper. There is also now a steady increased use of net screens instead of glass or plastic. In fact, when net screens are used some term them screenhouses.
It is important to note that the climate of your earmarked location plays a determinant role in how you will build the greenhouse(s). When choosing a location for the greenhouse ensure that it is well exposed to natural light meaning that there should be no shadows casting themselves on it. It is especially advised that if your location is characterized by a harsh natural climate then greenhouse farming might not be ideal. It would not be ideal from a cost perspective because you would have to install expensive equipment and systems to create the right microclimate.The availability of a reliable water source is mandatory since irrigation is crucial here. Proximity to key services such as road networks, coms infrastructure, electricity and so on – this must be in order.
Some of the common vegetable crops for greenhouse farming are tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, and green beans, onions amongst others. The reason why these are commonly grown is because their thermal requirements are intermediate thus making them most suited to most environments.
Make Sure You Have A Comprehensive Greenhouse Farming Business Plan
The failure to plan is the beginning of business failure. The greenhouse farming business plan must be clear and succinct enough to give your potential partners, clients and investors an overview of what your objectives are. At the same time, it must be detailed enough to explain the operations of the business that you propose. At the very minimum you need to have the following included in your greenhouse farming business plan:
- The mission, vision and operational strategy
- Market Analysis And Customer Segmentation
- A business case showing that the business is financial viable and sustainable
- A marketing and customer care plan
- An organizational chart and human resource policy
- A three-year expansion outlook
- A risk and rewards Analysis
Scale of production and the amount of crop care required have a bearing on how many workers are required. The level of automation is also a key determinant in this regard. So your human resources needs shall vary because of these and other related factors.
The financial capital element is not black and white due to the many factors at play. Generally, every entrepreneur always wants to keep costs at bay to maximize on profits. However, in greenhouse farming low costs tends to also mean low yields. Here is the thing; there are two main approaches to microclimate regulation i.e. passive or active. Passive regulation of the microclimate entails low costs because there is no sophisticated equipment or systems installed. Whereas the active approach involves such installations thus pushing costs up. If you are to grow your vegetables throughout the whole year then active microclimate regulation is the way to go. It also involves high and consistent yields and crop quality. So you really have to muse over these dynamics and choose which path you want to take. Still you can always start small and scale up steadily over time.
The vegetable market is inexhaustibly large and ever-growing. Especially if you conduct your greenhouse vegetable farming well you will realize high quality vegetables that will fetch high value and will be much sought-after. The types of clients are plenty spanning from individuals to commercial outlets such supermarkets, restaurants and the like.
This is a very technical and lengthy subject matter so you are encouraged to research more. You can also learn quite a lot from established players in this field. All the same we are confident this article will help you in big way as you endeavour to start your own greenhouse vegetable farming business.