Greenhouse isn’t entirely a new concept, let’s take you through the whole gist on how you to start your greenhouse farming in Nigeria.
Simply put, a greenhouse is a farming system where crops are cultivated in a building constructed using plastic or with glass sides and a glass roof just so these plants could get maximum protection from harsh weather conditions.
There are certain types of crops that are quite sensitive to temperature and humidity and can only grow in some region; this is why a controlled environment is deemed necessary. So, away from the traditional practices, greenhouse comes entirely different in its uniqueness. Nigerians today are gradually adopting the idea behind greenhouse farming which had gained prominence in countries like Germany, New Zealand, the Netherland, etc.
Tropical crops such as Peppers, Pineapples and Tomatoes — known to adapt and grow well in hot regions as well as temperate crops like cabbages, blackberries and apples that thrive well in cold weather — can now be grown in just about anywhere, all thanks to greenhouse farming technology. This is a multibillion naira sub-sector in itself, so it’s quite a profitable venture for individuals and companies.
Let’s take a cursory look at some advantages of growing crops and plants in a greenhouse.
Advantages of Greenhouse Farming
- Enriched harvest and high production yield is guaranteed. This would be achieved through proper management and ultimately lead to high profitability.
- Control of the plant environment promised a reduced harmful effect of pest and diseases.
- Crops are shielded away from harmful weather conditions which mar them from attaining their optimal growth.
- It allows you to meet your commercial quantity requirements irrespective of whether they are grown in the urban areas or not.
- Land requirement for this type of farming is usually small and there is a high level of efficiency on the use of resources (water and nutrients).
- Greenhouse farming is durable and the return on your investment is usually high.
- Crops no longer depend solely on the season as they are made available all year long.
So, of equal importance are the critical determinants of constructing your greenhouse. We’ll reel them out as follow:
Greenhouse Construction in Nigeria
Material type and automation process
Greenhouse can come in three main forms. They include the following.
- Glass Greenhouse: It is usually built with glass of about 3mm thickness. Dutch Light or Horticultural glass grade, as it’s generally known, is the cheapest among the three types of greenhouse. One major feature of a glass greenhouse over plastic is that more light gets to the plants through it. Glass basically comes with a higher light transmission value when compared to plastics.
- Plastic Greenhouse: This is built with the aid of moldable polymer materials like polyethene film or polycarbonate. Although it is lighter, more durable and expensive than the glass greenhouse. One of its key features is that it retains the heat generated from the ground due to its excellent thermal insulation value. Light that passes through the plastic greenhouse diffuses and thus reach an extensive part of the house.
- Commercial Greenhouse: This is the most expensive one among the three types of greenhouse. It involves more of automation processes with its own built-in screening, heating, cooling, and lighting equipment which can be controlled remotely either through a smartphone or computer.
Location of the Greenhouse
Where your greenhouse is located should be somewhere with high light intensity and moderate temperature and humidity.
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A well-ventilated greenhouse contributes largely to your yield. The ventilation of your greenhouse is basically dependent on proper orientation by ensuring that the vents are facing the direction where there is normal flow of wind to the greenhouse site.
Cost of Installation
There are basically two options to starting your own greenhouse. This is either to create one from scratch or buy an existing commercial greenhouse, although the latter is quite less expensive compared to the former.
So, if you decide to go with the first option of building your own greenhouse from scratch, the most commonly used type of greenhouse is that made using plastic and steel frames or wooden frame in some cases. This option gives you the ability to have your greenhouse built to your taste. To have a plastic greenhouse with a dimension of 10 meters by 25 meters (250 square meters) built-in Nigeria; it is estimated to cost about N2, 000,000.
Process involved in starting your greenhouse farming
- Identify the type of crop to grow
Apparently, a lot of plants can thrive well in a greenhouse but it is quite essential to take note of some factors which may alter what you can really grow. We strongly advise you start with just a crop as against growing a varieties initially because crops sometimes vary in their water, nutrition, sunlight needs and even harvest seasons which can be a lot to handle at the same time. You should however be more concerned about the expected net returns on your investment instead.
- Planting of seed
Basically, there are three options available for planting of seeds and they include those planted in boxes, in pots, or outdoors. Pots are best used for crops whose seeds grow slowly. This makes it possible to easily identify fast-growing weeds and get rid of them while being conscious of the seeds.
On the other hand, seedbed placed in a shaded area offers the best temperature to plants and can also guide against the hot sun from injuring or even killing young seedlings as they develop. Ensure to place the seeds to a depth of about three to four times their diameter when planting; make the soil moist and well-drained to allow for good oxygen content.
However, in case you’re planting with small seeds; simply sprinkle them on the ground surface and press them into place lightly. Another important thing to note is to transplant them as soon as they’re large enough to handle.
Doing this in a greenhouse quickly hardens the plant making it possible for the plant to survive harsh weather conditions and also grow faster when humidity is high and the temperature is controlled.
You can, however, experiment mainly if you’re planting a variety of crops in your journey into greenhouse farming. With this approach, you will need to know the amount of heat your plants need to survive. So planting your crops at different times of the year can help you achieve this.
On a general note, you should ensure your plants get adequate sunlight, although it mostly requires a reasonable amount of planning on your side. The planning involves calculating how much light is needed during the night in the rainy season to commensurate with proper ventilation control.
Sunlight transmission between 90 to 93percent is the highest provided by single glass sheets. However, with a properly framed glass and well-designed greenhouse, the transmission rate will not be more than 70 percent of light; and at the same time where heating pipes, wires, and obstacles are present, you should expect the light to measure about 60 to 70 percent at the crop level.
Once ventilation and lighting have been properly taken care of, watering is another essential element for growth. This is one aspect you can’t overlook when growing your plants in a greenhouse so as to avoid plants becoming dry. Always water your plants and ensure the soil is drenched all through the pot.
Managing these environmental factors right means your plants will grow faster and produce high-quality leaves and seeds. This is indeed an essential aspect of the greenhouse which in the end, you will be at an advantage.
- Marketing and Selling
When the harvest time is near, begin to look for the right market channels for your products and reach out to prospective buyers. Not only that, you can also explore various means of advertising your products so you can start selling fast. Doing this early enough will help you overcome the challenges that come with marketing after harvest your products. Create relationship with supermarkets, grocery stores and discount chains where you can sell your products.
Take samples of your product along when meeting your prospective buyer and also attract them by selling the best out to them. These are simple ways you can ensure your product sell fast.
- Packing and Labelling
This stage comes right before getting your products down to the market. You must ensure they are well tidied up and packaged. Wipe off any dirt left on the leaves; clean dirt on the pots with a wet cloth; and cut off any leaves which have changed colour.
Label the containers appropriately to avoid mix upon delivery. Other necessary information can also be added to individual labels on the plants showing how well to take care of the plants throughout their shelf life. Lastly, in some cases, you might be required by the buyer to label the outside of the box with details about your business such as name, phone number, address, etc.
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