Top 100 growers are feeling the pinch of increased labor and transportation costs, according to Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Survey for 2019. That may be why 85% say they’ll ask for more money for their plants in 2019. But price increases are just one strategy in their overall plan to remain profitable, as several growers reported they continue to automate, increase production efficiencies, and keep a close watch on labor costs, return on investment, and bottom-line profits.
Where do Top 100 Growers see production headed 20 years from now with the current influx of new technology? Fully integrated automation mostly, but also technology changes across the board that streamline efficiencies in RFID scanning, logistics, and inventory control, to name a few. Several growers predicted less product touches as automation continues to advance, more use of robotics, and widespread application of artificial intelligence. One grower even speculated the day might come when growers don’t walk a crop at all, instead relying on artificial intelligence to identify problems before they occur.
Most Top 100 growers answering the question about the future of production agreed that technology now viewed as a luxury by some will be a necessity 20 years from now to remain competitive, and that new technology developments will continue to rapidly change the industry and how efficiently plants are produced in the greenhouse.
Top 100 Growers Continue to Expand
The total environmentally controlled square footage for all the Top 100 Growers this year is 229,758,444. The top 10 growers on the list account for 41% of the overall total with their combined 94,129,142 square feet of environmentally controlled production space. This is slightly up from their 2018 total of 93,796,762 square feet and equates to 23% of the total greenhouse space (409 million square feet) reported in the USDA Floriculture Crops for 2015, which will get an update sometime in May 2019.
Twenty Top 100 Growers reported adding production space this year. Despite that, reported environmental square footage dropped 10,530,587 this year compared to 2018.
The most significant move this year is Altman Plants’ shift to the No. 1 spot with the addition of 8,767,971 square feet of environmentally controlled space to its operation after the acquisition of Color Spot (No. 1 in 2018) Nurseries’ remaining assets. Plug Connection, a young plant grower ranked No. 64 this year with 1,096,100 of environmentally controlled space, also operates under the Altman Plants umbrella while acting as a separate entity to service the needs of its parent company as well as those of other growers.
The next largest addition of environmentally controlled space was Seville Growers with 250,000 square feet, which budged it up one spot to No. 7 for 2019. While several Top 100 Growers shifted either up or down one spot with square footage changes and displacement by newcomers to the Top 100 list, a few growers change in position rankings were notable, including Pineae Greenhouses’ new rank of No. 51, up 13 spots; Sedan Floral’s move up eight spots to No. 76; Natural Beauty Growers’ drop of eight spots to No. 25; and Garden State Growers 18-spot fall from No. 38 to No. 56.
Finally, three new operations join the list this year: Nash Greenhouses (No. 37), Maria Gardens (No. 68), Westerlay Orchids (No. 85), and Catoctin Mountain Growers (No. 89, tied with Knox Nursery).
Check out the complete list below!