During the past several years, interest in Controlled Environment Ag (CEA) has virtually exploded. Current growers are expanding at a rapid pace and new entrants to the field abound. From greenhouse production to indoor vertical farming (IVF), we hear an unending list of stories of "new and innovative growing systems and techniques," all promising a countless array of benefits. Unfortunately, this isn't new.
Or maybe better yet, fortunately, this isn't new.
As we delve deeper into the industry, we see certain patterns emerge: Many growing operations - particularly newer ones - struggle. The failure rate can be high. Even when these businesses survive, many of them do not thrive. The all too common seduction by technological advancements tend to blind one to the realities of a CEA business. This is farming. Period. On a daily basis, we can observe throughout social media the claims of how technologies make farming easier - more productive - or more "hands off." While this might sound appealing, it takes one farther and farther away from a simple absolute in this business: Your goal is to produce a specific quantity of crop - abiding by specific quality standards - at a price point that provides a positive economic return. That's it - and the foundation to achieve this is rooted in sound horticultural practices.
Please pay attention to these words: QUANTITY, QUALITY, AND POSITIVE ECONOMIC RETURNS. That is all a properly run, successful CEA business is supposed to provide. When you can achieve these three goals, anything else you want your business to produce: "green jobs," local food to the community, lower carbon footprint, less "food miles," etc, can be achieved. (But not without reaching the "big 3" first!) Whether you can adjust your temperature from your iPhone, stack multiple growing systems on top of one another, or watch your plants grow on your "lettuce-cam" while sipping a latte at Starbucks is completely irrelevant. Horticultural production techniques can be exacting and complex.....and the failure to adhere to those can be devastating. This is all too common, especially as we become more reliant on certain technologies. All too often, we see systems and technologies that are touted as "solutions" to certain problems (real or otherwise), yet violate the very basics of proper growing parameters.
That said, there ARE tremendous tools that technology has provided to the grower. These tools come in the form of better growing systems, nutritional and environmental controls, and data collection. These hardware and software tools have given the grower unprecedented levels of control over the growing process, as well as understanding and management of countless points of information. This can help the grower produce better crops, lower costs, streamline their business practices, and manage regulatory issues such as labor management and food safety.
But, a tool is a tool. A skilled farmer can take a tractor and use it properly it to produce better crops with less inputs, while an inexperienced operator might crash through the barn, killing the livestock. Which grower do you want to be? (hopefully you don't want to be the farmer who eventually gains knowledge and experience by repeatedly killing the cows, running over the landscaping plantings and crashing through the fence!)
The successful management of the complex biological systems we see in CEA requires a significant level of experience. The acquisition of such experience can be very time consuming and mistakes can be very costly. So how does one leapfrog this steep CEA learning curve? (and it IS steep!) Failure can be a tremendous teacher........but a painful one as well. Do you have the time, money, and energy to go through this process alone? You don't have to! AmHydro has been directly involved in commercial hydroponic production for over 33 years.
The AmHydro Advantage program is a consulting program open to anyone, and is supported by a full staff of commercial growers. We offer a full line of consulting services from:
- Custom growing system design and manufacture
- Biological-pest control programs
- Crop production guidance - including best practices, varietal selection, and crop scheduling.
- Professional grower training-we train and source growers for leading hydroponic farms and offer custom training programs for managers/general workforce. We also host quarterly 2-day training seminars at various locations.
- Full scale project management and implementation. From start to finish, AmHydro can manage the design, construction, build-out, and operation of your project.
- Consulting for any type of growing system: NFT, raft, aeroponic, slab, gutter, container, etc from any manufacturer.
AmHydro is one of the few companies in the industry who are actual commercial growers themselves. We have seen nearly every growing issues that any grower will ever face. This experience has helped us to develop successful growing operations in 65 countries around the world. Over 200 commercial farms in the US alone utilize AmHydro systems and expertise. This experience is what has paved the way to over 2 million square feet of production space, producing between 16 million and 20 million pounds of fresh, sustainable food each and every year. We also proudly partner with the most experienced and successful companies in the industry, bringing you the best greenhouse, lighting, environmental control, and construction options available. We have all your bases covered.
Let's face it, experience matters, and you don't have to wait to acquire it yourself. You don't even need to use an AmHydro growing system (although it certainly helps!) All you need is a desire to improve your production and build your company to it's fullest potential. The AmHydro Advantage program is a step in the right direction. Based on your needs, we can work with you to develop a custom plan to improve your crops, fix production problems, train your workforce, build, or expand your business. Site visits, online, phone, or Skype consulting is available. Give us a call or send us an email. You'll be glad that you did. Please visit our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages to see photos of our countless successful growers across the globe. We hope that YOU will be next!