As we continue to invest in greenhouse technology, we learn how we have failed to adequately plan for the technology we hope to employ. Here are some considerations:
- Start by thinking modular. It’s critical to allow for growth and change, so your technology can adapt to what you are building.
- If you are not a mono-crop grower, you must remain flexible to support things like pot sizes, different crops, conveyers, carts, and big things like heating and electrical.
- Share with your greenhouse supplier what you plan to put in for equipment as you plan your build because this can affect simple things like water drainage and complex items like layout. When considering lighting, black out zones, basket systems, and watering booms, it’s important to plan watering, electrical, and doors to avoid losing space and complicating systems.
- Take the time to plan, to avoid complexity. Keep it simple or your staff will move your expensive equipment aside in frustration.
Is It a Need or a Want?
I once had a supplier ask me, “Are you a grower or a greenhouse builder?” As owners, we come up with awesome ideas to build and equipment to buy that is not always the best for production.
With the cost of greenhouse technology today, you need to put careful thought into your intended purchase and have good data to support an investment. I challenge my staff to track the cost of tasks to help support investments. At the end of the day, it’s about the return on investment. I need data to demonstrate that what we are doing is a good investment.
Typically, we look for a three- to five-year payback; we consider three a no-brainer.
Technology changes quickly. Make sure it works with your other systems. Consider that other changes may be required as a result of the new equipment you’re implementing.
Lastly, as an owner I have to ask myself, “Is this really practical, or is the latest and greatest driving my decision?”
Can I Afford It?
Back to return on investment. I’ll repeat the above. If it’s a three-year payback, it’s a no-brainer. Get on it.
If it’s a 10-year-plus investment, you may want to ask yourself, “Can I afford not to do this?” You might have to live with the decision for a lifetime. It’s better to scale back the project and do it right.
Back to modular. If you plan for the future from day one, you save mega bucks in the end. Take it from someone who has renovated and built 20-plus projects. We are still trying to get it right! Most of us start small and don’t have a grand vision. I suggest trying to think about the grand vision and the what-ifs ahead of time.