Greenhouse Management: How has the growing media market changed in the past few years?
Ed Bloodnick: With the economic downturn some years ago, there was a consolidation of the industry and the grower market. We see more diversification into other crops like edibles, organic crops and more large ‘ready made’ planters and assorted variety baskets for instant color. For all markets, the cost and availability of labor has had a big impact in all commercial growing. Because of this, we see more commercial greenhouses moving towards automation and an increase in the use of commercially prepared growing media. Many operations have converted to large, bulk package format to reduce handling and labor. Although the floriculture market is still the largest market, it has become more selective in terms of the types and quality of products it requires. These are the big changes — and the growth we have seen in the past few years.
GM: Premier Tech Horticulture and the PRO-MIX brand have some products that include active ingredients such as mycorrhizae and helpful bacteria. What are the advantages of buying growing media with active ingredients already present?
EB: While there are regulatory and registration requirements to sell active ingredients, unfortunately there is not enough monitoring across the market to check for quality. There are differences between active ingredients in the market and it is important to compare apples to apples. What sets Premier Tech apart from other companies is that we produce growing media and the active ingredients we add to PRO-MIX products. This is attractive for growers since these active ingredients are produced by Premier Tech and we control the quality. The active ingredients themselves are high-quality and produced in aseptic conditions in a laboratory. We not only have the expertise in growing media, but we also have over 30 years’ experience in biological sciences to combine the technologies. We bring both of these technologies together in a pre-formulated blend so the grower doesn’t have to be concerned about blending the right amount, using equipment or reapplying it.
GM: How can a grower pick the right growing media for their business?
EB: If a grower is interested in a certain type of growing media, our sales and grower services teams go on site to visit them and understand what their needs are. Together, we select a product and demonstrate its value to be sure it’s the right product for their application. With growing media, it’s not one-size-fits-all. It depends on the type of crop, stage of development, container size, cultural practices and set-up in the greenhouse. With some crops, a one-size-fits-all solution may work. For example, a bedding plant crop is produced in a very short window where you buy a plug, transplant, you’re growing it for four to six weeks and it’s out the door. With longer-term crops, growing medium selection is a bit more involved to choose the right product for that entire crop cycle.