Greenhouse farming is a system of farming in which crops are cultivated in an enclosed environment. This enclosed structure is called a greenhouse. It is a building with glass sides and a glass roof although it can also be constructed using plastic. It is often used for plants that are sensitive to the weather because the greenhouse makes it easy to control temperature and humidity irrespective of the external weather conditions. Generally, the greenhouse is different from a typical farm which consists of an area of land used for growing crops or keeping animals.
Greenhouse Farming in Nigeria: How to Start in 2019
In this post, we take a look at how you can start greenhouse farming in Nigeria in 2019.
But first, let’s take a look at some important factors that determine how you will construct your greenhouse.
Based on the type of material and automation processes involved, greenhouses can be classified or grouped into three main types:
- Glass Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is built using glass, usually of 3mm thickness, which is known as Dutch Light or Horticultural glass grade. It’s the cheapest type of greenhouse.
- Plastic Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is built using moldable polymer materials such as polyethylene (or polyethylene) film or polycarbonate materials. It is more durable than the domestic greenhouse.
- Commercial Greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is a full-service, stand-alone unit with built-in screening, heating, cooling, and lighting equipment that can be remotely controlled via a mobile device or computer. This type of greenhouse is the most expensive.
You should site your greenhouse in a location where the light intensity is high and the temperature and humidity is moderate.
The two primary materials used in the construction of a greenhouse are Glass and Plastics (Moldable Polymers). Typically, glass has a higher light transmission value (97% to 98%) when compared to plastics (80% to 96%). This is why a glass greenhouse enables more light to get to the plants. On the other hand, when light passes through the plastic greenhouse it diffuses thereby penetrating an extensive area of the house.
Additionally, plastic is lighter than glass so it requires less construction work and materials when used for greenhouses. However, in some cases, plastic like the twin-wall polycarbonate (TWP) is more expensive than glass and it is more durable. Also, plastics are known for their excellent thermal insulation value (R) making them suitable for retaining the ground-generated heat inside the greenhouse.
Type of crops
The type of crop(s) you choose to plant in your greenhouse is largely dependent on the choice of consumers in the market. Before starting your greenhouse farm, it is recommended that you undertake a market survey to know the type of crop that is in high demand. Your market survey should also provide information that ensures your harvest time coincides with the period your market needs your product.
It is essential that your greenhouse is well ventilated. In order to provide proper ventilation, you should ensure that the greenhouse is oriented so that the vents are open towards the direction of the prevailing wind flow of the greenhouse site or location.
If you decide to start a greenhouse farm you can either build from the scratch or purchase a commercial greenhouse.
When building, the popular type of greenhouse is the plastic type using polyethylene material and steel frames. You can also build your plastic greenhouse with wooden frame.
The decision to construct your greenhouse enables you to customize the facility to fit your need. Also, it is less expensive when you construct or build your greenhouse.
In Nigeria, the cost of building a local plastic greenhouse with a dimension of 10 meters by 25 meters is estimated at N2,000,000.
Some of the requirements for your greenhouse construction include flat cleared land, excellent water source, bags of cement, sharp sand, ballast, digging tools. You will also need equipment such as metal rods, hammers, marking rope, ladder, tank stands, binding wire, wood for soil sterilization, manure, etc.
We have highlighted the advantages of greenhouse Farming below:
- A small portion of land is required
- The greenhouse protects crops against adverse weather conditions, pests, and diseases.
- The system optimal condition for growth with easy-to-control temperature and practice of IPM (integrated pest management)
- The greenhouse ensures higher yields and improved quality of vegetables.
- The system ensures efficient use of resources such as water and nutrients.
- The greenhouse is durable and this system of farming produces an excellent return on your investment
Now that you know the basics of a greenhouse system, let’s take a look at how you can start your greenhouse farm.
Step 1: Select what type of plant you will grow
There are many options for plants that you can grow in a greenhouse. However, there are certain factors that will determine your choice.
Our recommendation is that you start with a single crop instead of growing a variety of plants. Starting with different crops can be a lot of work because these assortments of crops tend to have a different requirement in terms of water, nutrition and sunlight requirements. In addition, preparing for the different harvest seasons can be quite inconvenient.
So, instead of growing 1000 units of 10 different crops why not grow 10,000 units of a particular crop
One of the first things you must figure out when choosing the specific plant is the expected net returns. There is no point planting crops that with little or no return on your investment. But if you choose to grow a variety of crops, you should consider the cost of production, the current market prices and the expected returns on investment.
Step 2: Plant your seeds
There are various planting options. You can sow your seeds in boxes, in pots, or outdoors.
Pots are ideal for slow-growing seeds. In this case, you can quickly identify fast-growing weeds and remove them without disturbing the seeds. However, planting on a seedbed in a shaded area provides the best temperature because the hot sun can injure or even kill young seedlings as they develop.
It is also important that you keep the soil moist and well-drained for good oxygen content. When planting, the general rule of thumb is to place the seeds to a depth of three to four times their diameter.
On the other hand, if you’re planting with small seeds, you can simply sprinkle them on the ground surface and press them into place.
In greenhouse farming, you should transplant them as soon as they’re large enough to handle because transplanting promptly hardens the plant to ensure it can withstand bad weather conditions.
Basically, a greenhouse enables a plant to grow faster by raising humidity and controlling the temperature. The system also allows you to create optimum light intensity for growth.
When starting a greenhouse, you can always experiment especially if you’re planting a variety. For instance, you can plant your crops at different times of the year. This will enable you to know the amount of heat, your plants need to thrive.
Generally, you should ensure your plants get adequate sunlight and this usually requires a reasonable amount of planning. It can be done by calculating how much light is needed during the night as well as the rainy season. On the other hand, you should also avoid excessive exposure to sunlight because this can be harmful to your plant particularly when ventilation isn’t properly maintained.
Typically, the highest sunlight transmission, 90 – 93% is provided by single glass sheets. But if the glass is properly framed and the greenhouse is well-designed, it will transmit no more than 70 percent of light; and with wires, heating pipes, and obstacles, a light will normally measure no more than 60 – 70 percent at the crop level.
You can also use double-poly sheets or structured panels of acrylic and polycarbonate. If this glass is properly constructed and framed, you can gain the same level of light that single-glass sheets will give.
Additionally, you can purchase a shade and use it to evaluate how much shade your plants will need. Most light meters come with a numbered guide and are easy-to-read. All you need to do is hold it away from direct light, in the darkest area of the greenhouse, and read the meter. However, your readings may vary depending on reflections and the direct point of the sun.
Another option is to use shade cloth over the house or within the house on a trellis system. This can help control how much light the plant receives.
Some other important factors in planting include:
As stated earlier, one of the major advantages of the greenhouse is the controlled environment it provides and as a result of managing these environmental factors properly, your plants tend to grow faster produce high-quality leaves and seeds.
This is another important aspect of greenhouse farming. It is a well-known fact, that carbon dioxide is essential for growth and there are seasons when the air circulation may not be sufficient to provide adequate CO2 for these plants. You can supplement the CO2 provision by raising the levels of available CO2 above normal. For instance, the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are normally between 250 to 350 ppm; bringing the level up between 1200 to 1500 ppm can increase plant growth by as much as 30 percent in most plants.
Water is essential to growth and you can’t neglect this when growing your plants in a greenhouse. For example, if the plants become dry, they will stop growing which can lead to stunting.
You should water your plants so that the soil is drenched throughout the pot, and you can add a suitable water-soluble fertilizer every week.
When it is time to transplant, you should ensure the process is carried out once the seedlings germinate into either a soil container, the ground, or rock-wool (lava rocks formed into slabs to hold water).
At this stage, there is a specific requirement for temperature and moisture. If you’re growing cutting, you should provide an environment that encourages rooting. In this case, you take the cutting from the existing plant. Examples of plants that these work for include cucumbers, tomatoes, vines, shrubs, foliage plants, flowers, and herbs.
Step 3: Selling and Marketing
Once you’re close to your harvest time, you should start speaking to prospective buyers and find the right market channels for your products. You can also find means of advertising your products so that you can start selling immediately your plants are harvested.
Interestingly, marketing is one of the major challenges of any farmer especially when it comes to finding the ideal market for your products. However, selling your products isn’t exactly straight forward but there’s a way to market it seamlessly. You can link up with supermarkets, discount chains and grocery stores where you can sell your products.
Also, there are a couple of ways you can ensure your product moves out fast. First, you should make you product appealing by ensuring you’re selling the best out of the lot. You can bring samples of these along when meeting your prospective buyer. Secondly, you should speak with enthusiasm about your product.
Step 4: Packing and Labeling
Prior to getting your products down to the market, you need to clean them up and package them. You should clean off any dirt left on the plant (especially its leaves), wipe excess dirt from the pots with a wet cloth, and trim any leaves which have turned brown
You would also need to label the containers to ensure there will be no mix up when it is time to deliver it to your buyer. You can include individual labels on the plants and the necessary information on how to take care of the plants until they’re sold. The buyer may also need you to label the outside of the box with your information such as name, address, and phone number.