Greenhouse farming is often perceived as an artificial procedure, classified by low nutritional worth of the final product and the heavy use of chemical inputs.
Furthermore, large areas covered with greenhouses create a big visual impact. In contrast, open-field cultivation is perceived as an ‘eco-friendly’ activity and one that has a much less visual impact.
Growing under greenhouse conditions, instead of an open field, may enhance quality, quadruple farming and enable growers to cultivate their crop over a longer window of time.
When carried out correctly, it may significantly increase yields over what is possible under open-field farming. For instance, greenhouse tomato yields four to five times more exceeding than open field.
The greenhouse extends your growing season as harvests may last up to eight months compared to one month in the open fields. Whatsoever gardener or farmer knows planting crops outside depends wholly on weather patterns and conditions which must be proper for seeds to take root and thrive.
With a greenhouse, many different methods may be used to keep temperatures stable, causing less stress to the crops and promoting strong growth much earlier in the year. Some popular techniques involved creates thermal solar mass by using natural materials that readily absorbs, store and release thermal heat, and using man-made heaters and heating fans. Expand several variety among the produce by using a greenhouse.
As vegetables come in and out of season, prices do fluctuate accordingly based on availability, demand, and production techniques among many others. Investing in a greenhouse gives the operation the opportunity to provide a variety of different products on the “off-season” creating greater availability for your customers in times of low supply and having the ability to grow new produce or flowers which do not typically thrive in your climate.
Factors to consider before starting greenhouse farming.
Research – Dig deep and wide for information concerning the pros and cons of setting up a greenhouse before breaking the ground.
Choose your crop wisely – Look for the high yielding seeds that are resistant to pests and diseases. Choose a seeds that has ready market.
Cost of setting up the greenhouse – May be wooden or metallic. The Metallic greenhouses are ever more expensive than wooden greenhouses. Further costs involved are: water tank, drip lines, polythene covering, installation and other inputs like fertilizers, seeds.
Source of water – Could be available and sufficient to sustain drip irrigation in and out of the season.
Customer support – Support comes from attending trainings, farm visits & tours and agronomists. This helps you gather fresh ideas for crop, pests and disease management.
Soil test – To determine the soil fertility. This helps you know the right fertilizers to be applied hence saving on the cost of buying unnecessary fertilizers.
Market – Before you grow, know where, when and to whom you sell your produce. Don’t start growing the crops blindly; otherwise you may end up being frustrated.
Bio-security – You should make sure that the greenhouse is secured all the times. Don’t just permit people to enter into the greenhouse to prevent the external pathogens carried by people to attack the cops.
Production tips for your greenhouse production
Avoid too much nitrogen application such as . CAN fertilizer particularly during flowering stage. Too high or too low nitrogen levels induces flower drops or blossom drops resulting in poor or no fruiting.
Develop a pollination plan – As soon as there are yellow flowers popping open, it is time to get in there mechanically and transfer some pollen by slightly disturbing or shaking the plants. Tomatoes may as well self- pollinate. It as well open side curtains for wind to aid pollination.
Open the side curtains throughout the day to lower the temperature in the greenhouse. This allows wind circulation in the greenhouse to facilitate pollination.
Good aeration – Is obtained by opening the side curtains to prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases e.g. Downy mildew.
Avoid too much dust in the greenhouse – This could be discouraged completely for it creates a conducive environment for red spider mites.
Records of the spray program could be kept for easy follow-up and future reference.
A related product of a pesticide should not be sprayed for more than two consecutive sprays. The reason being some pests e.g. thrips and whiteflies tend to develop resistant antibodies to some chemicals commonly sprayed on them.
Use certified seeds that are high yielding and resistant to pests and diseases.
Get a grip on pests – Learn to identify the most common insects and diseases which can invade your crop. At a minimum, learn that whiteflies, aphids, thrips, leaf miners and mites look like.
As for diseases – Familiarize yourself with botrytis, powdery mildew, Downy mildew, early blight etc. and know their signs and symptoms.
Assess your irrigation plan – As plants grow, their leaf area increases, transpiration goes up, and they will require more water.
Most profitable crops to grow in a greenhouse are as follows
- Kales and spinach
Greenhouse farming in Kenya business plan
So you have to consider all the relevant steps and requirements when establishing a greenhouse and you feel ready for it. Just like in whatsoever other economic activity, before jumping into the business, it is advisable that you first create greenhouse farming business plan. Here’s what you would include in your business plan.
- The business overview
- The products you intend to deal with
- Your vision statement Your mission statement
- Business structure
- Strengths of the business
- Weaknesses of the business
- The available opportunities
- Market analysis
- Source of income
- Sales forecast
- Pricing strategy
Successful greenhouse companies in Kenya
Being an agricultural country, Kenya is home to a several companies that you may depend on for all your greenhouse needs. Below are the successful greenhouse companies in the country
- Illuminium Greenhouses Kenya.
- Kisumu Greenhouse Constructors and Agronomist.
- Amiran Company, Nairobi.
- Greenhouse Kenya, Kisumu.