Selecting the right structure for your operation can be difficult. With so many options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news is that greenhouse manufacturers are experienced in the art of matching customers with the ideal product. Here’s their advice for how to pick your next structure.
Work With An Expert
If greenhouse manufacturers can agree on one thing, it’s this: Consult with a company you trust. The best way to ensure your needs are met is to talk shop with a sales representative who can suggest viable options.
“At Growers Supply, we have the ability to create any greenhouse for any customer,” says Jon Kozlowski, greenhouse sales team manager. “Our in-house design and engineer teams are able to take even the most minute detail into account, assuring that customers get exactly what they need.”
Tom Vezdos, vice-president and divisional manager for commercial greenhouses at Rough Brothers, also encourages growers to work with experts and touts the sales team’s 150 years of collective experience in the greenhouse market. This know-how allows the Rough Brothers team to assess everything a grower will need to be successful.
“We’ll do everything from hot water systems for heating to flood floors to shade systems and blackout screens,” he says. “We bundle our services together and do an installation package for the grower.”
Whether a grower needs a full installation package or updates to a current house, most client meetings involve a lot of information gathering.
“The questions we ask a customer are, ‘Have you done this before? What are you using now? What do you like? How can we improve on what you have?’ We need to know their background and what they feel their needs are,” says Agra Tech sales account manager Adam Pound.
GGS Structures’ sales professionals Peter Benton and Greg Ackland also say designing with the customer in mind is important for providing adequate solutions, especially since a grower’s biggest hurdle can often involve option overload.
“GGS manufactures a complete line of greenhouses, coldframes, high tunnels, crop protectors and fabric covered storage buildings,” Benton says. “We have poly greenhouses, curved glass greenhouses, venlo glass greenhouses, open roof greenhouses, outdoor shade structures, freestanding greenhouses and crop protectors and other three-season greenhouses. In addition, we offer a full range of ventilation options.”
Because a greenhouse can be a long-term investment, Ackland says working with a manufacturer is ideal for energy conservation, labor savings and more.
“There’s a lot more to be considered than just making it work,” he says.
Consider The Cost
After a grower finds a trusted expert to work with, the next step is to run the numbers.
“We design with cost in mind,” Vezdos says. “The cost-value equation is such a big part of it. The more money you spend, the better environment you can control. It depends on the individual and how much that control is worth.”
For growers who can’t afford to bankroll a top-of-the-line model, however, there are plenty of lower-cost options.
“We have structures that can maximize production and quality on any budget,” Kozlowski says. “Growers Supply’s options include hoop houses, cold frames, high tunnels, small production greenhouses and commercial greenhouses.”
Working with the grower can also take the form of a negotiation.
“Every time you sit down at a meeting, it’s about the customer and the budget,” Pound says. “If we say, ‘this is what you need,’ and the grower can’t afford that, we can start working backward. All the experience we have can help us make suggested cuts without affecting the grower’s overall results.”
Consider The Crop
One factor that can significantly influence a structural decision is obvious.
“Different crops have different requirements for light, heat, cooling and humidity,” Benton says. “Additionally, different crops have different growing, irrigation, harvesting methods and automation equipment. All of these variables may have an impact on which type of greenhouse will provide the better environment for growing.”
Because sacrificing the crop’s success is never an option, greenhouse manufacturers often prefer to meet growers at their facilities.
“When we first start working with a customer, we familiarize ourselves with their project and what they’re trying to achieve,” Kozlowski says. “We look into what, how and where they’re growing. The crop and location are particularly important.”
When talking with a customer, Vezdos also recommends inquiring about problems the grower is experiencing.
“If a grower has a problem, our salespeople can usually recommend a solution. That’s why we have people in the market to see the facilities. We don’t know what we don’t know until we meet the grower.”
Consider The Climate
Geography is another important consideration that can have a huge impact on what structures can be considered. After all, growing chrysanthemums in Michigan is a lot different from growing pansies in Florida.
“For growers up north, more insulation is part of the thought process, since they have to fight that cooler temperature longer than growers down south,” Vezdos says. “A high tunnel is not fully enclosed, and most times, it’s not going to hold up during severe weather. You have to consider what’s going to be there when a storm comes through. The other side of that is to consider how much a customer grows during the fall or winter versus the spring time.”
Certain structures aren’t an option at all in some cases.
“You shouldn’t put a hoop house in a high-snow area and expect to run it year round. Because you cannot control the environment in a tunnel, you cannot expect the same results as a fully controlled greenhouse,” Pound says. “A high tunnel is ideal for an entry-level grower or a low-value crop. You can’t get the same result from tomatoes grown in a high tunnel as tomatoes grown in a fully controlled environment.”
Ackland adds that high tunnels are mainly for temporary use, overwintering or as a means of protecting a crop from frost in order to slightly extend the growing season.
Overall, a good structural choice comes down to control and peace of mind.
“A great grower will be able to grow a good crop under most circumstances,” Ackland says. “But a great greenhouse environment will make it easier to grow a great crop.”