Dr. Howard Resh is a greenhouse expert, teacher, consultant, author and hydroponics pioneer and when he consults greenhouse growers all over the planet, he often directs them to purchase greenhouses made by Agra Tech, Inc. in Pittsburg, CA and one of the world’s leading commercial greenhouse manufacturers in the world.
How do you help fledgling and/or established greenhouse growers to set them up for success?
Consulting greenhouse growers that either have issues with their greenhouses and want help resolving those issues; or they may want to get into the business—starting slowly and then jumping into with both feet, depending on their particular situation. I can help them in every aspect of greenhouse farming, including what they should grow and in what quantities; the type and size of the greenhouse; the hydroponic system they should use, which all depends on the crops they’re going to grow, as well as the location. Then, I can help them to determine all of the other components they may need, such as heating and cooling systems, etc. Once we get a layout for the greenhouse, designing all of the irrigation systems and hydroponic systems for it–that’s normally when the construction of the greenhouse can begin. Once the greenhouse is up, the training of the crops takes place, where we perform the nutrient formulations to ensure the healthy growth of the plants that they select to grow.
So, you’re a turnkey type of consultant that takes your greenhouse clients from the initial idea all the way to taking those first crops to market, correct?
Yes, exactly. And the job doesn’t end after the greenhouse is operational. I have many customers that we work with throughout the year, to help them when they encounter issues or need to tap into our knowledge about this industry and how to succeed in it. In many cases, the nutrient solutions need to be changed once they get into growing their crops. We can direct them where to get them tested and analyzed, then we can re-adjust the nutrient formulation according to what the lab tells us based on their element levels. We may also have to assist them with pest management, depending on where they are. We advise greenhouse growers from all over the world, including Nigeria, Bermuda, Hawaii, Senegal, Mexico and throughout the U.S.
And you can help them to figure out what crops to grow?
Yes, I start by showing them the main crops that they should consider, but then I tell them to go out and do their own market research. Go to the marketplace and find out what the volume is and what the prices are, then they can determine how much of each crop they want to grow. Once we’ve determined the crops and the volume, we’re able to select the type of greenhouse and the hydroponics that are required in order to achieve those numbers. The best way to go to market is for a greenhouse grower to grow local products and sell them through small, local outlets, instead of selling to the big wholesalers, because they won’t deal with the smaller growers, because they surely can’t compete price-wise. Farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scenarios are good matches for these small greenhouse growers, so I always advise my clients to find a small market niche and stick with it. I have clients who are engineers or own their own construction companies, IT companies, for example, and they’ve chosen not to be in those businesses anymore for whatever reasons. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and now eggplants have become a big thing; and then you’ve got your herbs and certain types of lettuces—so those are the main types of things that are ideal to grow in greenhouses.
So, setting up a productive greenhouse isn’t a do-it-yourself type of the thing?
No, because most people will need help from someone like me to set it up properly for one. If they choose the wrong structure or pick the incorrect growing system, they can encounter a wide range of problems that can cost them a lot of money and time. It’s very important to get if off the ground right from the beginning and that’s what I try to help them with. It’s also vital that they learn how to take proper care of the plants. Many new greenhouse growers run into nutrition problems down the road, because they don’t know the right formulations and they can’t figure out how their crops aren’t growing well. In other cases, they may buy the wrong greenhouse for their environment or pay too much for it, for example.
For many of your clients, you recommend Agra Tech greenhouses?
Agra Tech makes greenhouses that are very strong and well-constructed. We have an Agra Tech greenhouse here in Anguilla and we’ve had it for 15 years and it has survived 3-4 hurricanes and it’s still working. It’s performed very well under some tough weather conditions. The people at Agra Tech have some affordable solutions for growers of any sizes and I often direct my clients toward purchasing and using Agra Tech greenhouses.
If you’re thinking of entering the commercial greenhouse industry, you can best contact Dr. Howard Resh at Hmresh@aol.com, or visit his website at www.HowardResh.com.