We surveyed more than 100 greenhouse growers in the U.S. and Canada to gauge the industry’s use of various structures. This year, we found that fewer growers are planning to add covered production than previous years. In 2016, 52% of respondents planned to expand. Just three years later, the number is down to 39%.
Perennials are gaining popularity, up 19% from last year, with bedding plants/annuals remaining in the top two for the third year running. Read on for more insights into the industry. — Kate Spirgen
Editor’s note: Due to rounding, not all answers add up to 100%.
Perennials and bedding plants/annuals have been the top choices for growers for years and continue to gain popularity. Perennials are up from just 38% last year to 57%, and bedding plants/annuals saw a slight uptick from 49% to 53%.Other responses include: high hoop houses, gutter-connected hoop houses, free-standing saw tooth roof, pit style and modular expandable Polyethylene film has been the top choice for years, but polycarbonate sheet has been on the rise in recent years, up 6 percentage points since 2016. Shade cloth and screens are also increasing from 4% three years ago to 13% this year.Other responses include: none, foggers, HAF fans, open sides and water chillers Compared with previous years, far fewer growers are planning to add space in the coming year. In 2018, 62% of respondents planned to expand and in 2017, 51% planned to add space, whereas this year, only 39% do. Natural ventilation is still the top choice for growers, followed by exhaust fans, which have been in the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, for the past five years.
The perks of membership
2019 Structures Report - 2019 Structures Report
NGMA provides its members with advertising help, legislative awareness and more.
The National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) is a professional trade organization for the manufacturers and suppliers of greenhouses and greenhouse components. NGMA members are committed to building greenhouses with a level of professionalism you won’t find elsewhere. When you become a member, you will receive the following benefits:
Advocacy. NGMA works for you! It is a strong voice advocating on behalf of the industry to reduce the negative impact of building and energy regulations.
Legislative Awareness. NGMA regularly shares legislative information with its members.
E-newsletter. This quarterly publication contains useful information for NGMA members. NGMA Insights also presents an opportunity for members to submit news for distribution to other NGMA members and to write articles about industry issues and trends.
Web Presence and Advertising. An alphabetical listing of each member of NGMA is listed on the website at ngma.com. The listing includes contact information and is available by member category. The website also includes “Helpful Hints,” which may be printed and distributed to clientele, and copies of NGMA standards and guidelines. NGMA offers its members a discounted website advertising program as well.
“Members Only” section of website. Members obtain access to the “Members Only” section of the website, which includes copies of past presentations from Spring Meetings, minutes of meetings, photographs from Spring Meetings and other pertinent information that only members can access.
Public Relations. NGMA and its members are promoted in industry magazines. This activity not only puts our members in front of the readers, but it promotes membership in NGMA. In addition, NGMA provides “Member of NGMA” signs to companies that exhibit at AmericanHort’s Cultivate show.
Networking. NGMA provides an opportunity for networking, education, business and fun at the annual Spring Meeting. Current industry topics are reviewed from top-notch speakers and networking opportunities between members abound! Members will find many beneficial reasons to attend the Spring Meeting. NGMA also hosts an annual Membership Reception at AmericanHort’s Cultivate show, which provides members with the opportunity to connect.
Social Networking. In addition to the event networking opportunities, NGMA provides its members with a virtual networking opportunity on its Facebook page. NGMA also has a YouTube channel that members can utilize as educational or marketing tools for their business. Members are invited to submit video content to be published on NGMA’s YouTube channel.
Industry Leadership. Members have the unique opportunity to serve on the NGMA Board of Directors and serve on the committees that steer NGMA and guarantee its future as a leader in the greenhouse industry.
This spring, I stepped into the role of President of the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA). With many years in management and as a volunteer under my belt, I am proud to now lead NGMA. We are an organization that must play a vital role for our members and the greenhouse industry.
We have built, and continue to build, relationships that make a difference. Whether it is connecting our greenhouse structure manufacturers, the component manufacturers, and the service suppliers, or building relationships in the green industry, NGMA cultivates long-term relationships and partnerships that benefit our members.
NGMA spends a considerable amount of time, energy and money to monitor the building and energy codes as they apply to the horticulture and greenhouse crop production industries. Through our Codes and Standards Committee, NGMA proposes appropriate changes and clarifications, opposes proposals that have a negative impact on the industry and provides resources for education and interpretation of the codes.
NGMA educates our members and the industry. During our annual Spring Meeting, members get important information related to doing business, and just as valuable as the formal training is the informal sharing of ideas amongst attendees. This past year, NGMA was intentional about sharing our collective knowledge and experience with growers. We offered a webinar for the cannabis industry and started a YouTube channel of resources for growers. This year, we will be developing a speaker’s bureau so that other organizations can tap into our members as resources.
NGMA is an active community of volunteers. We have dedicated ourselves to promoting our trade through networking, advocacy and education. I encourage you to get involved. Let’s all work together to build NGMA and continue to advance our industry.
Tom Vezdos General Manager Rough Brothers, Inc.
2019 Structures Report - 2019 Structures Report
Growers around the country are upgrading their structures to save labor and expand their operations.
Greenhouses all across North America will be hammering away this summer as growers expand and improve their operations.
In Greenhouse Management’s 2019 Structures Report, a little more than 40% of respondents said they are planning to upgrade their greenhouse structures in the coming year, and about the same percentage said they’ll be adding production space by next spring. The majority are keeping expenses to $25,000 and under, with improvements ranging from new structures to technology updates to production areas for new types of plant materials.
Kopke’s Greenhouse in Oregon, Wisconsin, is making its first foray into hemp production this year. The 5-acre operation has about 2 acres under cover in two gutter-connected buildings, growing mainly annuals along with some perennials and vegetables.
But in mid-July, the company will be taking an existing quonset-style building and relocating it for organic vegetable and hemp production, which became legal in the state two years ago.
“We got our license for doing it this year and apparently so did every other person in the state. So we fully expect the market to bottom out within the next year or so and then it will be like corn or soy with everyone overproducing and nobody making any money,” says Vice President Josh Smith. “So our strategy is to get in and get out.”
Others, like Merwood Nursery, in Anchor Point, Alaska, are planning to expand and improve production of their existing crops. The company currently has two 24-by-120-foot greenhouses under construction to help shelter young plant material from the harsh climate.
“In the spring it’s very cold and the weather is pretty inclement here and [growers] complain that they have to move it outside to get it from greenhouse to greenhouse or from range to range,” says owner Michael Edwards. So I’m building passageways and corridors between all the houses that aren’t going to be gutter-connected so the plant material can stay inside until it moves out.”
Pipsypop Flowers in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, has seen a huge demand for cut flowers, so they’re also planning to expand on their success. The 3-acre cut flower operation has about 800 square feet of greenhouse right now, and is in the process of adding another 500. In the spring, they’ll also be adding a couple of poly houses for seeding.
Rather than bring in outside laborers, the company is planning to handle construction in-house, custom-fitting polycarbonate around the frames they build.
That’s the plan at Merwood Nursery as well, where Edwards says it’s tough to find reliable, quality work. “It’s slow but it does cut down on the cost of labor,” he says. “Trying to find people that are qualified and do the job you need to get done is hard to find.”
Many of growers’ planned upgrades revolve around labor-saving strategies, whether it’s watering, transportation or environmental controls.
For 30 years, Kopke’s Greenhouse’s climate controls consisted of knobs and thermostats, but they’re in the process of replacing or upgrading to save some time and effort so that they don’t have to visit the greenhouse every time the sun comes out, Smith says. The operation already has automated controls in four of its 29 buildings so far, but due to issues with their vendor, they’re looking to replace or upgrade.
But it isn't a do-or-die situation. Kopke’s is at the point that they’re looking to shave off milliseconds rather than seconds off of production.
“We’re looking at some potential improvements in quality — not to say that we aren’t very pleased with what our growers do,” Smith says. “We just want to be able to augment them with tools that they can use to do even better. We feel like we nitpick nowadays rather than make big strides.”
At Merwin, Edwards is hoping to cut down on the labor it takes to move plant material around by installing a cart monorail system to move product throughout his two greenhouses.
“It’s so labor-intensive moving plant material — the trays, the individual pots — and so I want to cut down on labor that’s involved for the employees and myself in moving plant material around,” he says. “It takes so much out of your bottom line because every time you move stuff it costs you more to produce that individual plant or whatever you’re growing.”
Merwood Nursery is planning a dehumidifying system as well to help with ventilation in the fall and winter. The operation plans to install a sawtooth roof design with a 2-foot-wide vent that opens at the bottom. But in Alaska, the cold, cloudy days make moisture a real problem since ventilation translates to more heating costs.
The operation is currently using a biomass heater as the primary source of heat, and while Edwards would like to upgrade to natural gas, the price to build the pipes to connect would be around $62,000. He’s hoping that the natural gas company will build an infrastructure in the coming years, but in the meantime, he’s planning to install a propane heater for backup.
For now, he plans to keep on using thermostats to run vents and circulating pumps.
Other growers are sticking with what’s tried and true. Lasch plans to keep using the same system of exhaust fans, vents and thermostats that have worked for him for years.
“With the natural air flow going through there we really don’t use [exhaust fans] in the dead of the summer, so the heat isn’t as big of a deal,” Lasch says.
Next spring and summer, Edwards is planning to expand into a new perennial overwintering house, and after that, it’s on to a garden center building with an attached greenhouse for houseplants and tropicals.
And Smith says he’ll be upgrading on a case-by-case basis, working through what works for his operation.
“We don’t need the latest and greatest thing out there,” he says. “We try to do what makes sense and not let our eyes get to feasting on the desserts that are out there.”
A varied field
2019 Structures Report - 2019 Structures Report
A.J. Both of Rutgers University explains why standards and guidelines need to be reaffirmed and updated for a unique industry.
Greenhouse designs come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Many companies have their own design departments and use their own approaches, making for a varied field in terms of structures, designs, dimensions and components, says A.J. Both, associate extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.
It is important for the greenhouse industry to continue to create and vet standards and guidelines, which outline everything from heater placements to pad-to-fan distances to wind loads, Both says. They allow growers to understand the practices and procedures they need to follow when they apply for a permit.
“If you want to either remodel or you want to build something new, you have to go to your local zoning board and you apply for a permit, and that’s when a building inspector and a zoning board will look at your plans and decide whether you meet their requirements or not,” he says.
Both and others have developed standards for greenhouses to use, and those standards have largely worked. Over time, however, standards need to be reaffirmed or revised. And currently, securing funding to do research to check facts and figures can be difficult.
“Some of the standards that have been on the books for quite some time have now expired — mostly because of resources, but also because of, to a certain extent, people’s willingness to participate,” Both says. “We have not been able to update and maintain these standards. I think that’s a loss.”
Creating and vetting greenhouse standards and guidelines is a volunteer activity, Both says, as it helps the entire industry, not just specific growers or manufacturers.
“I think nobody has it in their job description [that they are] going to spend some of the time on this particular activity,” he says.
Standards and guidelines need to be revised for two reasons, Both says.
“The first reason is obviously that we have new materials or new approaches or new insights that we can use to do things differently, and that needs to be eventually incorporated into the standards if they turn out to be good practices that make sense or save energy or save labor or whatever it is,” he says. “The other reason is that if we develop these standards, we typically do it through professional organizations.”
Organizations such as the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers develop standards. Those organizations need to follow rules if they want to write a standard that is recognized by the American National Standards Institute, a non-profit organization that oversees the consensus of standards for a varety of products, services and systems in the U.S.
It is best to write a standard with the goal of getting it approved by the ANSI, Both says.
“It’s just like an accredited program of study,” Both says. “You go through a procedure; you follow certain rules. Those rules have been vetted and that means that there are some assurances that the process was followed correctly, that the right amount of people have provided inputs and that hopefully the right science and the right thinking went into the whole process to develop these standards.”
One of the rules involved in the process is that standards have to be either reaffirmed or updated every five years. If an update is necessary, teams of volunteers will work through changing and vetting standards until they come out with a consensus document that then gets approved for the next five years.
It is also important for the greenhouse industry to create and update its own standards to help avoid misunderstandings with regulators outside the industry, Both says.
For instance, building, electrical and fire safety codes are usually developed under the ISO’s rules and regulations, and they apply to all structures, he says. For this reason, municipalities and building inspectors often are first look at them. However, greenhouses are unique structures with distinctive applications.
“If they are not sufficiently described and identified in these very broad standards, then you can get a very difficult situation where a building inspector says, ‘No, you have to insulate your greenhouse because that’s what it says in the International Building Code’ — where it doesn’t make any sense to insulate a greenhouse because we want as much light in as possible,” he says. “Those things happen, and we typically have to do some education then.”
Growers should participate in the process of drafting and vetting standards and guidelines, possibly by forming an ad hoc committee, Both says.
“They don’t necessarily have to be all involved, but I think it’s important for them to have a voice because these standards — once they get approved — will have an impact on how their operations are running and what they can and cannot do,” he says. “I’m always of the mindset that it’s better to be involved in a discussion before new regulations are implemented because now you can provide input and you can object to certain clauses or certain ideas.”