Greenhouse Farming is the process of cultivating crops and vegetable in a greenhouse ecosystems environment. Cultivation in greenhouses is a practice that has allowed farmers to increase their performance, while improving the quality of products, isolating them in micro-ecosystems that have the ideal conditions for plants to grow healthy, strong and beautiful.
To create these ideal micro-ecosystems, farmers study what exactly their plants need, and then, as basic as it sounds, give it to them.
Human beings break down the barriers of the possible and the impossible every day. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, we discovered that it is possible to make and control fire. Then, some centuries later, we used our intellect to make machines capable of flying. The next thing, of course, was to get higher. Little by little, we have been breaking down the barriers, and nowadays, it seems that nothing is impossible.
Technology makes great things possible, and that’s why today we can enjoy all kinds of fruits and vegetables, no matter what season we are in. We owe this achievement, among other things, to greenhouse cultivation.
Why cultivate in a greenhouse?
As we mentioned earlier, greenhouses must be a kind of oasis for your plants, providing them with enough light, ventilation, humidity and an adequate temperature.
Well implemented greenhouses can be a low-cost solution for increasing a farmer’s productivity in countries with more harsh climates, climatic restrictions or other external risks such as hail or insect pests.
Whether you’re a commercial farmer or just a gardener, greenhouse growing will expand your boundaries: it will help you grow more dainty plants and improve fruit quality.
Types of greenhouse in Nigeria
Below are some types of greenhouses:
Plastic Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is built with a plastic sheet. It is the most common type of greenhouse in Nigeria. The plastic sheet prevents elements of the weather to affect the crops in the greenhouse.
Glass Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is covered with glass. It is common in the Netherlands and other temperate countries.
Dome Shaped Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse has a dome shape. The shape makes it appropriate for some regions.
What should a greenhouse have?
Plants are like people: not everyone likes the same things. Just as there are people who prefer the beach over the mountain and the sweet over the spicy, each plant species has its own particular preferences.
Although each farmer must take these preferences into account when setting up his greenhouse, there are certain considerations that are general and that every greenhouse should cover:
The first of these is Sunlights. To grow strong and beautiful, plants need food. No, a sandwich or hamburger does not work for them. They need ATP, a nutrient that is only obtained through a process called photosynthesis.
That means that, in any case, our plants need sufficient light and moisture. More experienced farmers recommend six to eight hours of light a day and at least 45% to 60% humidity in the air.
To grow in a greenhouse, it is also recommended that the average temperature should not exceed 20ºC during the day and should not fall below 7ºC at night.
Plants in a safe place
We were talking about how people and plants are so much alike. Well, once again, we can make a comparison. Just as there are tough people, there are others who are more delicate.
There is always in your group of friends or family that person who is, to be honest, too delicate. He or she does not like to get dirty, hot or too cold. Well, if your friend or a family member were a fruit, he would be a tomato.
A tomato? Well, yes. This delicious fruit, the main star of a rich Napoli sauce or a delicious Capresso salad, is usually very delicate… and is therefore almost always grown in a greenhouse.
When a farmer decides to start growing tomatoes, he has to take into account three very, very, very important things: the soil, the quality of the soil and the average temperature.
Without a large enough soil and moist soil, young roots are not able to grow strong enough to support the fruits. On the other hand, if temperatures are above 25° or 27° degrees, the development of the tomato is altered and it does not bear fruit correctly.
These very specific conditions can only be achieved in a sufficiently controlled environment, and in most cases require the use of greenhouses for their cultivation.
But it is not only a matter of delicacy. If you live in a country with four well-marked seasons, you know the sudden changes in temperature that can occur from one moment to the next.
In these cases, there is always the possibility that the crops will not be able to adapt to these abrupt changes, and that is why greenhouses are used to protect the plants and to produce fruit all year round.
That does not mean that thanks to a greenhouse you can grow mangoes in the Himalayas, but at least you can be sure that you can eat Neapolitan pasta all year round.
Advantages of growing in a greenhouse
In January last year, the MSC Group, an agricultural manufacturing company specializing in the development of high-quality greenhouses, listed the main benefits and advantages of growing using greenhouses. Several of them have already been mentioned, but we would like to explain to them a little better.
The first of these advantages has, of course, a business reason. Cultivation in greenhouses, by allowing the farmer to plant under optimal conditions, ensures the good development of the crop. And as you can all imagine, a plant that grows well is a plant that bears good fruit…. fruits that can be sold on the market at a good price.
It feels good to know that a profit is safe, doesn’t it? When a farmer chooses to grow in greenhouses, the risk is reduced in the face of possible random setbacks, such as some kind of extreme rise in temperature or a period of drought.
After all, nature is extremely unpredictable!
Many times, when we talk about efficiency, we are not very clear about what it means. Most people think it is a matter of, basically, making the best of things. But no, efficiency goes far beyond that. It’s about using resources in the right amount and in the right way to exploit them to the limit and to get the best results.
When growing using greenhouses it is much easier to keep track of how resources are used and to manage them correctly. Farmers can monitor the growth of their plants more carefully, and use the necessary fertilizers at each stage of development, for example.
The same goes for water. Many of the most advanced greenhouses have irrigation systems – which can work automatically or manually – that not only preserve the planet’s most valuable resource but also save us time and money.
No farmer likes plants full of pests. These, along with periods of drought, are arguably the main threats to any crop.
We have always been taught that fire is fought with fire, but in the case of pests, we must be very careful. To deal with them, the farmer must use pesticides. While these are designed to affect plants as little as possible, nothing changes the fact that pesticides are, in fact, poison.
For this reason, they must be applied with great care and in specific places, to avoid any possible damage to the crop.
This is where our beloved micro-ecosystems make their triumphal entrance. A good properly designed and built greenhouse makes it much easier to control pests and diseases.
For what reason? By keeping plants isolated from the environment, it becomes easier to identify where the problem is (the focus of infection) and how to control the situation.
Crops all year round
One of the commercial activities most subject to possible changes in the environment is, for better or for worse, agriculture. The correct development of this activity depends on the land, the climate, the water… it is not something that can be 100% controlled.
However, when growing with greenhouses, since the farmer works with controlled micro-ecosystems that can be changed at will, it is much easier to deal with – or ignore – external agents.
No matter how heavy the rain is or how low the temperatures have fallen, the plants remain protected in your oasis. No matter how strong the sun or how dry the environment, the crops remain moist. So there is no need to worry about seasonal changes, as the crops can continue to be grown all year round.
Technology at the service of agriculture
Is technology limited to industrialization? Nothing could be more false than that. Today, many of the most advanced systems are being incorporated into agriculture to make processes more efficient, faster and environmentally friendly.
Solar and wind energy are still being studied, but they promise to bring incredible results to greenhouse farming.
All you have to do is sit back and wait, for the 21st century is not even in its first half yet, and the world is no longer even remotely like it used to be in the 20th century.
Crops that can be grown in greenhouses in Nigeria
The following are the crops that can be grown in a greenhouse:
Tomato: Tomato is the most popular crop grown in greenhouses worldwide. In Nigeria, greenhouse-grown tomatoes command better prices than open field-grown tomatoes because of their high quality. It is not uncommon for greenhouse farmers to sell their tomatoes for N400 per kg. Most of the greenhouse-grown tomatoes in Nigeria are sold in the organized markets (hotels and retail malls.
Sweet Pepper: Just like tomatoes, sweet pepper be it green, red or yellow grows very well under greenhouse conditions. Greenhouse-grown sweet peppers are sold at premium rates in the market in Nigeria.
Cucumber: Nigerians love cucumbers, cucumber farming is called farmers’ ATM in Nigeria because of the popularity and profitability of this crop in Nigeria. Cucumbers can be grown in greenhouses. The popular types of cucumbers grown in greenhouses in Nigeria are slicing cucumbers, pickles cucumbers and English cucumbers etc.
- Sweet corn
- Chinese cabbage
- Habenero peppers etc.
Greenhouses can also be used for the nursery of vegetable and tree crops.
Steps to take to start greenhouse farming
Get a good site: It is important to get a good site for your greenhouse. Some people prefer having their greenhouses in urban areas in Nigeria like Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Kano, Port Harcourt or Owerri etc where they will be easily accessible to premium customers. Some people also prefer to site their greenhouses in rural areas.
Check the soil and water: If you prefer to grow directly on the soil, you must check the soil for bacteria wilt pathogen and other pests and diseases. If the soil is heavily infected, you will need to solarize the soil. Also, you should be sure that there is enough water for growing.
Construct the greenhouse: It is better you get experts to help you construct your greenhouses; you can also buy pre-fabricated greenhouses.
Engage skilled hands: Operating a greenhouse is different from farming in an open field. You need to get skilled hands or you get yourself trained on how to successfully grow crops in a greenhouse.
Operate the greenhouse: After engaging the greenhouse, you should know how to operate the greenhouse and take care of the crops therein throughout the term of the crops. Veggie Grow will provide a manual to all its customers on how to grow crops in a greenhouse.
Marketing: It is always better to seek for a market or markets before you start growing any crop. The market for greenhouse produce in Nigeria is huge; you just need to do the leg work.
Cost of greenhouse farming in Nigeria
Getting a good greenhouse is not cheap; do not let anybody deceive you by telling you that you can get a good greenhouse for a ridiculous price. Most people who had a bad experience in greenhouse farming in Nigeria went for ridiculously low priced greenhouses.
The cost of a 240 square standard greenhouse in Nigeria goes for between N2 million to N2.5 million. However, at Veggie Grow, we can supply a greenhouse of 240 square meters to you at far below N2 million. We will also guide you on how you can make good money from the greenhouse.
Depending on the size of greenhouse you want, we can construct to fit your budget, however, if your budget is too low, we will not be able to compromise quality just to satisfy you.
Revenue Analysis of greenhouse farming
Let’s take indeterminate tomatoes grown in a small greenhouse for example.
A single indeterminate tomato plant can yield up to 30kg, some can yield lower though.
If 1,000 indeterminate tomato plants are planted in a greenhouse, about 30,000 kg is the maximum yield that will be gotten from the greenhouse.
In Nigeria, the conventional farmer gets as low as 3,000kg of tomatoes per acre of tomato, this means that the yield of a small greenhouse can equal the yield of 10 acres of tomatoes farmland.
This analysis shows that a greenhouse can be very profitable with a high ROI.
You also need to know that your greenhouse can also make a massive loss if you do not know how to cultivate crops in a greenhouse.
Where to get all your Greenhouse Farming kit at an affordable rate, simply visit www.htsfarms.ng