The debate about whether warehouse growing or greenhouse growing is more efficient and profitable is largely based on grower preference, types of plants grown and available technologies, according to various industry players.
Traditionally, greenhouse growing has been the norm. However, warehouse growing is becoming increasingly favorable with certain growers, especially those in the marijuana industry.
Successful warehouse growing depends on climate, market and crop selection, says Bryce Danbrook of GGS Structures’ Sales Solutions Team.
“Find a niche that will see the value in your product and production style,” he says. “Similar technology is needed. In some ways, warehouse production actually is more simplified than greenhouse production.”
In addition, there are advantages to warehouse growing, including the ability to better control temperature and other weather and environmental factors such as wind, humidity, natural light levels, pests and diseases.
However, crop failure can happen in a warehouse if controls fail, but a greenhouse is also at the same risk in the case of cold weather, says Duane Van Alstine of Niagrow Systems Ltd. In addition, there are advantages to warehouse growing including the ability to better control temperature and other weather and environmental factors such as wind, humidity, natural light levels, pests and diseases.
“The internal climate, lighting and irrigation controls are of the utmost importance in a warehouse growing operation, but no more important than those in a greenhouse,” he says.
Location is an especially crucial factor for indoor farming in general, says Daniel Kluko of Green Spirit Farms, an operation with indoor vertical farms.
“The return on investment depends on what you’re growing, where you’re growing it and how it’s grown,” he says. “Some vertical farms will have to spend less money on environmental controls and some more. The key tech factors in our industry are identical to a greenhouse, at least in application. The crops have the same requirements wherever they are, indoors or outdoors. We just do it a little differently.”
For ornamental growers, there has been enough evidence to prove the effectiveness of warehouse growing. However, the idea is not out of reach, especially for exotic crops.
One benefit of warehouse growing would be the ability for growers to avoid import regulations/customs that come with producing exotic varieties because of a reduced concern over invasive pest species being accidentally imported, says Danbrook.
“Breeders, researchers, etc. can also ensure the exact conditions needed to carry out their projects with pinpoint accuracy,” he says.
But, Kluko stresses, indoor farming isn’t a replacement for all farming.
“However, I do believe that any crop that can be grown hydroponically without the need for soil should be able to thrive in an indoor environment but figuring out the financial implications of that process is another road to travel,” he says.