Jennifer Neujahr

Departments - Three questions

HydraFiber’s Jennifer Neujahr discusses raw material shortages, the current growing media market and more.

May 23, 2022

Photo courtesy of Hydrafiber

Greenhouse Management: Looking at the market for growing media right now, what is it like — particularly in relation to supply chain concerns?

Jennifer Neujahr: Tough. I mean, right now there’s a shortage of most raw materials. ... We don’t have any capacity issues right now, but peat harvest this past year was not good — especially in the east, which supplies a large amount of the marketplace. There’s been bad winter storms up in Canada and harvesting hasn’t started yet for a lot of people. And that’s about a month later than normal. In the [Baltic states], where peat also comes from, it’s also impacted because of the Ukrainian situation. So not only was peat short last year, but anyone who had inventory worked through their inventory in an effort to service the market. So, everyone is starting with no inventory or very low inventory, and so a lot of growers have had to rethink their media.

GM: So how do growers approach navigating this market considering potential delays and hiccups?

JN: If growers are in need of raw materials or product, they can contact us. If you’re having trouble, reach out. We sell our raw materials blends to different suppliers, so it’s likely that there’s someone in their area that can provide a HydraFiber blend. ... What we’ve had to work closely with grower customers and blender customers on is just helping them make the formulations that take into account the right chemical and physical characteristics so the growers will continue to have success no matter what the blend is.

GM: What do you view as key factors to watch to see how the market develops and changes in the next year or so?

JN: First of all, I’d say that the need for growing media is going to continue to grow. And we as an industry are going to have to continue to be flexible and have eyes open to all kinds of alternatives and continue to think about physical properties, chemical properties and the quality control process behind these materials as they come to the marketplace. We work closely with Wageningen University in The Netherlands and there’s a man there named Chris Blok who is a soil and media expert. He recently made a prediction that the demand for soil will grow nearly four times the current amount by 2050. As an industry, we’re going to continue to have eyes wide open and continue to have good trialing programs in place to move forward on raw materials to keep producing.