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Get into Greenhouse crop production - Its attractive to young farmers

  • Written by RADA
  • Published in RADA
Farming is getting sexy and desirable, particularly for young people who are hooked on technology. They are beginning to see that there are tremendous financial opportunities in the marriage of cutting edge greenhouse technology with the age old profession food production.

Untitled1The technology is being embraced by women and young farmers and has been introduced into the curriculum of many high schools. In fact, the Northern Caribbean University through its Morris Entrepreneurship Centre (MEC) have been training farmers (read the original story here) in green house technology.

In addition, several high school students, having learned the process in school, have upon graduation gone into green house food production.  Commercial greenhouse crop production is now being promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, as a top priority in their drive to modernize and transform Jamaican agriculture to ensure the nation’s food security (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Young-farmer-hopes-to-reap-big-from-greenhouse-technology) Green house farming has now become seriously viable alternative in the job pool.

The primary focus of greenhouse crop production is an improvement in quality and volume.In addition, it enables import substitution by the production of locally grown high value fruits and vegetables which were being imported but can be grown locally at similar or better quality standards.

Untitled3Greenhouse crop production is a highly intensive system of crop production in which some measure of control is exerted over very critical components of the natural crop growing environment, towards enhancing crop Production and Productivity performance.

The factors that can be controlled include: sunlight, rainfall, irrigation and drainage, mineral nutrition, relative humidity, pests & disease management, plant architecture, ventilation / air exchange, air circulation, pollination and temperature.

The manipulation of these factors allows growers to produce consistently high yields of high quality crops, throughout the year, irrespective of prevailing weather conditions on the outside. The system utilizes minimum space, water, fertilizers and pesticides per unit of production to produce substantially higher yields of premium quality produce which fetches much higher prices per unit than comparable field grown crops of the same cultivars.

Untitled4Greenhouse operations require considerable financial expenditure for structures, crop production infrastructure and operational expenses. These circumstances allow very little room for trial and error, so a great deal of planning is required prior to embarking on the business of greenhouse agricultural production.

A person considering entering the greenhouse production business must have a basic knowledge of greenhouse structures, seedling production, crop nutrition, fertigation systems management, growing media management, pest and disease management, environmental control systems, produce marketing and basic business management.

The system requires conscientious, skilled labour that is trained in greenhouse maintenance, crop production, harvesting and post-harvest handling of produce. The skilled labour must possess the temperament and commitment to pay close attention to details because all operations require constant vigilance.

Untitled2Ventilation, air circulation, fertigation systems, relative humidity and pests and diseases infestations must be monitored and maintained on a daily basis because even a one day failure of any of these vital systems at a critical point in the development of the crop can result in crop failure and substantial financial losses.

Some of the advantages of greenhouse crop production when compared to open field production are:

  • Highly Intensive system of crop production which incorporates modern agricultural technologies.
  • Year round production of high quality agricultural produce.
  • Plants with high growth rates and longer life spans (up to12-15 months after planting)
  • 4 – 6 times greater crop production per unit area.
  • Better pest and disease management
  • Higher quality produce with lower pesticide residue levels
  • Substantially greater labour productivity due to more comfortable working area.
  • Eco-friendly methods of crop production.
  • Sustainable and reliable marketing of produce.
  • Foreign exchange savings through import substitution

Crops grown in greenhouses are fed a constant balanced supply of nutrients in an aqueous solution or hydroponics system. This system is monitored at least twice daily to ensure that the solution being fed to the plants is in the right concentration and pH levels to ensure maximum uptake.