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-   -   Design, setup and production from a Commercial Hydroponic Farm (http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1819)

NorEastFla 10-31-2010 11:19 AM

Design, setup and production from a Commercial Hydroponic Farm
Whew! That title was a mouthful! haha

Another thread was starting to move this direction, so I thought I'd start one here to get that discussion out of the other thread about lighting.


Originally Posted by GpsFrontier (Post 5519)
I am very interested in your progress on your setups and plans, as you know we have very similar goals. It's frustrating for me though right now because I just can't seem to come up with the money I need to get things rolling. I plan to start some commercial systems in the back yard, then when I have things dialed in. I have talked to a local nursery owner who has 9 acres of land that's willing to work something out with me setting up a commercial growing operation there at his nursery.

Hey GpsFrontier, I hear you about the money part. I couldn't get started on mine until after retiring. During my working life, there seemed to always be something else the money was needed for. Now, I live by myself and have almost everything I own paid for now, so I can shift some income into my planned for life hydroponic farm.

The *per/acre* amount of produce from a well run, organized hydroponic farm is truly astronomical. In Dr. Howard Resh's book "Hydroponic Food Production", he shows several farms from around the world. The numbers of plants in an acre, and the produce from those plants within one year is stunning in it's numbers.

For one old guy like me, I doubt very much that I could handle the picking, packing, transporting, unloading and selling of more than one acre of produce.

That will turn my life back into a job oriented existence again and that's something I *don't* want to do.

I have a college near me that has an Agricultural department and a dorm full of young people who need part time work. I think I may be able to invite the Head Professor of the Ag dept over to see my setup and discuss some credit based work for the students. I've heard of this being done elsewhere with great success.

The market side of the operation would have to be done by hired help, because I have no interest in doing it myself. Hell, I'm retired and staying that way! hehe

I love the setting up of hydroponic systems and the growing in them. I also love eating the produce.

If I were to only have one to provide me with veggies, I could do that in a pretty small greenhouse.

I really do want to get a commercial op going tho'. It would be a blast planning it all out, building it and making some bucks from it. Even if I broke even for a couple of years, it would just be fun.


Originally Posted by halfway (Post 5521)
I am very interested in you gentlemen's progress toward the commercial side of your hydro efforts.

I am just starting the process, but my 3rd and 4th chess moves ahead have me entertaining the feasibility of not only feeding my family, but commercial ventures as well.

I look forward to seeing your progress and am very interested in what the number crunching turns up.

Hi halfway! Good to see you here posting again! Forums like this one and mine are for casual topic related conversations. Some folks avoid them because they feel *tense* about posting. That's nuts! Kicking back and just yakking it up like you would in your own living room with a glass of your favorite beverage is what it should be looked at like.

That said, there is a reason that most farmers don't convert their farms to hydroponic growing; costs.

The setup costs for a large scale op are pretty large. More than most farmers could handle on a private farming basis. Most farmers live year to year and have no real *extra* money after their kids future education, upkeep on their current farm property and ops and paying their hired help are output.

Most of the large scale hydroponic farms in the world today are new setups and are either government sponsored or built by people who are part of a coop or already wealthy. It takes *Millions* of dollars to setup a huge hydroponic farm.

I'm going a different direction.

My whole life, I've wanted to create a hydroponic garden that is modular and able to be built by a putting a *kit* together and run by a normal family or even a single family member.

The starvation that exists in the world today could be easily ended by using nothing more than world-wide hydroponic farming. I've punched the numbers and done all the math. I'm a retired database professional, so doing that type of *number crunching* was my bread and butter for more than 30 years.

I've combined my database abilities and my love for hydroponic gardening with my mind-numbing understanding of the numbers and cause of millions of people per/year who starve to death in our world in search of a possible solution to the unneeded waste of human life.

My goal is to build a modular system that will be easy to set up, be made of materials easily transported and purchased or made, and be large enough to provide the basic vegetables needed for survival and health of a family of ten.

I believe I've done all the planning needed and this winter, I'm building the prototype of the first version of this system.

In 2011, I'll prove that my system can be built and used by people with no formal education and in any country in the world.

I'm going to find a family here in my own area that fits that description and once and for all find out if this idea I've built in my mind will work or not.

I think it will. By the end of 2011, I'll know for sure. If it does, I'll find backers who will enable me to kick it off in a much, much larger way.

My goal is to have a system that can be carried by shoulder if necessary, setup, used and maintained by a single person and provide enough vegetables for a family of ten.

I'll use PVC and other plastics first, but intend to also make it so that it can be built from normal items available in most countries like bamboo and such.

2011 is going to be an exciting year for me.

The first question most have for me is "What about the pumps?"

Manually filled tanks using gravity fed systems are a way around the electric part of outdoor hydro. Hard work only if gearing isn't used. Even the poorest families can sometimes come up with some pretty ingenious methods of filling a water tank.

Well there you have it. You all know now what I'll be doing in 2011.

NorEastFla 10-31-2010 11:26 AM

BTW, once I have this family sized system down, it will be able to be expanded by simply combining modules and using larger solution tanks to feed a village, a town or a full sized city.

The commercial application is endless, but my goal is to feed families, not my pocket. If it works out that I make a bunch of money from its commercial application, all the better, I have nothing against making money.

Amigatec 10-31-2010 11:36 AM

Keep us posted on the progress.

halfway 10-31-2010 06:46 PM


I'll opine a bit more when i get time.

But for now, youtube search "florida hydroponic farm for sale"

I'll provide a link when I get to a larger monitor. The guy has a nice setup in your home state and is looking to sell the whole thing.

Also google search aquaponic plans africa for a group that is doing something similar to your bigger plan.

Again, I'll provide links when I get a chance.

NorEastFla 10-31-2010 10:29 PM

Thanks halfway, I took a look at it. Wow, he could use some instruction on space management in the greenhouse he was standing in. Sparse, real sparse.

I'll bet the price tag that he conveniently didn't mention is through the roof.

Thanks man, but I prefer where I live now. hehe

"Aquaponics"...the new hydroponics.

As far as hydroponic application goes, it's neither an efficient way to grow fish or veggies unless done on a MASSIVE scale.

On a small scale, it's more cost efficient to just grow fish in a pond built for fish and veggies in a screened in greenhouse.

I'd love to read about the folks in Africa who are doing the hydro veggies.

Thanks again for the info!

GpsFrontier 11-01-2010 04:16 AM

For anyone that's interested in starting a hydroponic farming business (any business actually) I would suggest contacting your local SBDC (small business development center) office.

Here is a link to a state locater from the SBA website:
Small Business Administration - sbdc_locator_map

The SBA and SBDC are different but closely work together. Where the SBA mostly work to help people get the funding, the SBDC help the business succeed once they have the funding. There services are mostly free of charge. Including putting together the business plan that not only is necessary for getting a loan, but will dramatically increase your chances of the success even if you don't need one. Contact them to set up the free consultation, you will be amazed at what they can do to help. Trust me and make the phone call it will be well worth your time. I simply cant explain it all in a forum post.

I myself have done some number crunching (for the business plan), and found some good reliable information on growing particular crops, as well as projected income from a given number of plants (not acreage). But you do need to do the research (they can't/don't do it for you, it's a free service). But once you do the research they can advise you in the best options, and if the plan is feasible or not. They can even put you in contact with local business owners in the same type of business for free advice.

I have 20-25 years before I retire. So my goal is to make a business out of hydroponics now, and a "reasonable profit' in that time (hobby after that). So I do want to get a profit, but I know return on investment does not always go as planed. But planing is key to success ,that's why I suggest talking to the SBDC for anyone (It cant hurt).

For me I am interested in growing over twenty different crops, but it's important to have quantity (as well as quality) in the product for reliable sales. I'm planing on growing strawberry's as well as peppers at first. But plan to concentrate mostly on the strawberry's (year round) because out of season strawberry's are worth more than in season berry's (especially when grown local, ripe and fresh) for such a perishable product.

Here are some of the sources I used for my feasibility study to grow strawberry's
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-04.pdf (note: page 5 at the bottom)
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-05.pdf (note: page 3 at the bottom)
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-05.pdf (note: page 4 at the bottom)

Another good read for strawberry's
Maximum Yield - Indoor Gardening

The book "Hydroponic Strawberry production" by Dr. Lynette Morgan

P.S. I looked up that video, but I was not impressed. They talked more about the house than the hydo farm for one thing. Also there was very little that you can see about the hydro farm. From What I can tell from the video, it's a descent house on a good amount of land (nothing else). He mentioned a RO system, that doesn't mean much to me (no offense) because a unit that can produce 700 gallons per day only costs $300-$400. Compared the price of the land is nothing in comparison. Why did they not talk about the hydroponic systems (that's what they were trying to sell)?

P.S 2. I also agree that anyone should feel free to chime in just like they were talking in there own house to their friends. That's how I speak, that's how freely I expect others to speak. Just like in your living room there are bound to be disagreements, all I expect/ hope for is that it can be a civil disagreement. Bottom line, it takes more than one opinion to make the world go around (so help spin that big fat ball, it's heavy).

GpsFrontier 11-01-2010 05:47 AM

P.S 3.
I' m interested in the paneling that you are using for the small greenhouse (even large one), allowing light in, insulation properties ctc.. But mostly cost of materials. Cost, plans, etc..

NorEastFla 11-01-2010 11:03 AM


Originally Posted by GpsFrontier (Post 5529)
Here are some of the sources I used for my feasibility study to grow strawberry's
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-04.pdf (note: page 5 at the bottom)
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-05.pdf (note: page 3 at the bottom)
http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/files/pdf/...erry/98-05.pdf (note: page 4 at the bottom)

Another good read for strawberry's
Maximum Yield - Indoor Gardening

The book "Hydroponic Strawberry production" by Dr. Lynette Morgan

While looking up Dr. Lynette Morgan's book, I discovered a page with some interesting information on it: Welcome to Dr. Howard Resh, Hydroponic Services

Thanks for the links. Great information.


Originally Posted by GpsFrontier (Post 5530)
P.S 3.
I' m interested in the paneling that you are using for the small greenhouse (even large one), allowing light in, insulation properties ctc.. But mostly cost of materials. Cost, plans, etc..

My initial greenhouse will be 20' x 40'. That's large enough to use the test systems I plan on using and small enough to use as a modular component.

Each add-on module will be another 20' x 40' extension or can be a separate unit. Each will have individual panels of screen that can be removed and covered with clear poly for winter use here in Florida.

I haven't decided on the panel size yet, but it'll be small enough to handle for one person. The panels will be light weight "No seeum" screen, as I've found here in Florida it's best to restrict the sunlight some. Those crops I had in partial sun radically out-performed those in direct sun this year.

All pollination will be done by hand.

I'll not be using any insulation. I don't plan on growing during the cold season here. That will be my annual break in production and allow me repair, cleanup and vacation time. Our temperature related down time here is about a month per/year. Perfect for the tasks I'll need to get done while not growing.

The following years seedlings will all be grown inside my home in a controlled environment, so as to be ready for planting at the first 50F+ nights we have for an entire week. I can use the poly panels until the temps come up to a good range for each day.

I agree on your opinion of the guys sale pitch about the hydro farm. He said so little of merit, that it immediately made me suspicious. Why did he not mention anything about the farm? That was the point of the film clip. I saw some NFT channels and that was it. Like you said, it was then mostly about the house and even that was slim.

Then he cracks on his own realtor. hahahaahaha

I liked his Boston accent. Wow, it was a strong one. "Paaaark the caaaar in the yaaaaard" hahahahaahaha, I'm crackin me up...

halfway 11-01-2010 12:01 PM

I agree the vid left a lot to be desired, but thought I would post it to stimulate additional like item links on youtube and further the commercial aspect of hydro. He did another vid that talked more about the system, but it was very basic. I enjoyed seeing his setup for additional ideas.

There were some good links on the side as I kept opening additional vids. I notice that when people post vids, their naming conventions really need some help as a search is ineffective if your vid name not efficient.

I'm glad this thread was created as it is the next logical step.

Bell peppers are another big inflation vegetable during the winter. I posted another thread on pepper dwarf plant recommendations, but no replies as of yet.

Thanks for being so forthcoming gents...I'm eager to add as I progress.

halfway 11-01-2010 12:20 PM

I apologize....can't seem to find the aquaponic venture in africa. It was an American non-profit venture. The concept was a relatively small, self contained system that was modular in nature and could be expanded to serve small villages. It was a series of tanks and NFT systems with tilapia as the base.

I stumbled on it while searching for commercial applications for hydro and those a little more off the beaten (mega greenhouse) path.

During the same search, NYC window gardening, hydroponics barge, Alberta hydro capacities came up and you know how it goes.....once down the rabbit hole a string of bread crumbs may be necessary.

Like both of you (in one regard or another), I am nearing retirement. Always entertaining self sustainability and potential income.

halfway 11-01-2010 12:23 PM

Ahhhhhh! check this out and associated links. Some good info here.


Edit: and one more:



NorEastFla 11-01-2010 01:47 PM

Great links, halfway. Thanks.

Once I get into Youtube and hydroponic clips, I can blow an entire day watching one after another.

Once again, I have to stress that Dr. Howard Resh's book "Hydroponic Food Production" is an absolute must to anyone who is thinking seriously about growing commercially.

Even private family growers will love that book. It's simply fascinating.

GpsFrontier 11-01-2010 08:56 PM

Ya, nice videos. At 2 to 10 minutes for each video I have spent a lot of time watching them myself, basically just loosing track of time. And each time you click on a related video, you get a whole new list of related videos. I really liked the greenhouse in the first one especially. For me I fear the greenhouse to be the most expensive part, and I am not even considering the computer controls at this point. But with the high winds we get around here I need it to be durable, but that doesn't seem to come cheep.

Without getting my paperwork out, the greenhouse I need for the strawberry's will need to at least be something like 20 feet by 27 feet long (or possibly 30x30) and at least 8 feet high, and will be able to accommodate about 700 strawberry plants (in rotation for year round production). But I would like to fit in some melons also, and need another green house for the peppers (for winter time production). I have planed about 40 pepper plants in another spot, using 2 or 3 gallon buckets/pots and a recirculating drip system to supply the nutrient solution. I don't think I have much more space in the backyard to work with without getting yelled at (at least until the money starts coming in anyway). I just have so many crops I want to grow, but only so much space to work with at the moment. So for my first crops I basically want to focus on the crops that should be the most profitable (especially off season produce). I am also looking at cooling measures that I can use to eliminate the need for a full greenhouse, like a misting system to cool air temps for the strawberry during summer, but have a few possible issues with plant disease and inatiquet polination because bees may not be able to fly through the mist.

I like the idea of aquaponics because I like eating fish also, but don't plan on building any aquaponics systems soon. Though I have done some research on that subject also, so here are a few links that I have for anyone interested. I always save pdf files to my computer when I find good ones, that way I can always print it out and read it without the computer, I also like to copy and paste articles into a text document for the same reason.


I have not done any research on dwarf pepper plants and have not grown any dwarf peppers either, so I don't know how the information is different than regular sized plants. But here are a few links on peppers. They are not all specifically about growing pepper plants hydroponically, but most of the information is still related.

Missouri Alternatives Center, Alphabetical Links - AgEBB (Vegetable Production Resources)
Chile Peppers for the Home Garden (Chiles for the Home Garden)
Production of Sweet Bell Peppers (Production of Sweet Bell Peppers)
http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu/files/bellpeppers.pdf (BELL PEPPER CULTURE 2000-2001)
June 1999 (Crop Profile for Bell Peppers in California)
http://www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/intro...epperintro.pdf (Bell Peppers)
Greenhouse-Grown Bell Pepper Production (Greenhouse-Grown Bell Pepper Production)
http://agalternatives.aers.psu.edu/P...ll_Peppers.pdf (Pepper Production)
Search Results | Numbered Publications | CAES Publications | UGA (Commercial Pepper Production Handbook, click to view in HTML or pdf in upper right corner)

Wow, I guess that is a lot of links, it may not be everything but should be enough to start with anyway (I haven't even read it all myself).

halfway 11-01-2010 09:08 PM

great links and article gf....i do the same (print and read for later).

Too many variables for me to entertain aquaponics at this point in time, but the subject is fascinating. Especially in system design.

NorEastFla 11-01-2010 11:01 PM

Here's a sweet one with some calculations for the cost per/head of lettuce in a hydro system.

Air Farm Hydroponics - 4 Cents per Head of Lettuce

GpsFrontier 11-02-2010 02:45 AM

To be honest I am weary of any source (website) that's selling products for reliable information. Any study can easily be manipulated to their own needs for results. Considering the source and just how reliable it is, is an important factor to me. So I simply just don't like to rely on product orientated sites, at least without researching/comparing their information first (from a reliable source).

When I search for something, I have two simple tricks I use. Putting quotation marks ("quotation marks") around the keywords narrows the search results dramatically. The next one is when I have gotten the results list, I further narrow the list by going to the search engines "search options," and narrowing the results to ".edu" (educational) websites. They are the most reliable and objective sources for good information, and you don't need to worry about considering the motives of the source information.

P.S. I'm not saying that any of that information is wrong or incorrect, just that I wouldn't just trust it without comparing it to a source that I know I can trust, and I do have some defiant questions/concerns about reliability from that source. That being said, as long as I'm looking up a reliable source to compare it to anyway, I usually just start there in the first place. No offense, that's just my opinion (I still appreciate the link and info) the more the merrier. But thought I would pass along my searching tricks for anyone that it may help.

P.S. 2 Just in case anyone was wondering what I meant by a RO system that can deliver 700 gallons per day, here is a link to what I'm talking about:

GE Merlin Tankless Reverse Osmosis (they are not the only ones that sell it but prices vary)

NorEastFla 11-02-2010 08:36 AM

I understand verification of any information. I don't discount anything from commercial sites, I just verify it. I also verify that which I find at .edu sites also. You wouldn't believe how much BS I've found at .edu sites as well.

The academic world is full of argument among themselves. Full blown battles exist between factions of academia about almost every issue that exists.

I've found statements made by Dr. Resh that I disagree with and can support argument on. While he is the one I consider as the "Father of Modern Hydroponics", he's not infallible and does make statements that are not state of the art or that I've proven wrong with my own experiments.

Cross verification of data is the only way to confirm the validity of that data.

As of 1990, I had read every book written about hydroponics that is listed in the "Books In Print" volumes that are in every library in the nation. Those who don't have hard copies of those volumes have online issues to source.

I started at the first book listed in the volumes and requested each through the Intra-Library Loan Service and over a period of a year, read every single one that was listed.

That helped me immensely with filtering out BS in future articles and publications.

I've also been studying hydroponics since 10 years prior to that research, and have done extensive experimenting on my own.

I was once considered for the Directors position at the Epcot Hydroponic Exhibit in Orlando, Florida, but a person with a Doctorate beat me out. It turned out to be a faulty decision on their part as I discovered after seeing the results of his work. Frankly, I could have done it better, but didn't have the Doctorate to back up my knowledge and the Board at Epcot chose him because he did have one. Oh well...

I really wish I'd gotten that job! I wanted it really, really badly, and it bummed me out very much when I lost the opportunity.

The Epcot Center will just have to be satisfied with his 1950's hydroponics displays. (Bap, Bip, Bop....take that!)

I'm telling you this to give you an idea of what my own background in hydroponics is. I seldom say anything in the way of suggestions unless I've already proven the data to myself first.

You're perfectly correct when you say that *all* data should be cross checked by multiple sources. Even then, you can still find data that has been accepted as accurate and is not.

Like I told a ghost believer once, I'll believe that their are ghosts when one sits down and talks with me when I haven't been drinking or smoking anything. Until then, I consider them a result of over-active imaginations.

I consider Dr. Resh as the supreme authority in hydroponic farming. He's forgotten more than I'll probably ever learn, so-to-speak. However, I've found data of his that I've tried and found to be NOT the best way to do things through proving it via experimentation.

Cross check and verify. Two very wise methods to use prior to proving via experimentation.

Only after proving a method in trials can it be accepted as fact, unless someone else you trust has already done so.

halfway 11-02-2010 10:28 AM

Well said and valid for any and EVERY topic of study.

Research, compare, validate, decide.

Great thread. :cool:

GpsFrontier 11-02-2010 04:38 PM

I do agree in both that just because it's on a commercial site does not mean it's inaccurate, nor just because it's on a .edu site would mean that it was always completely accurate either. Just that I prefer to start with .edu sites because it's much less likely to be inaccurate, and I don't need to worry if they are modifying there results to favor there products and/or services. But yes there is always disagreements and favoritism thought the scientific community's. And even valid study's being done by educational institutions are often one sided in there results, especially when they are trying to secure funding to continue projects. That's really just the human element of human nature after all.

I wish that I have done all the reading on the subject of hydroponics that you have. I have known about hydroponics for over 20 years, but have only really been getting into it for the past 2 years or so. Also I have dyslexia and that causes me problems with reading, both in spelling issues and misreading words, but also it makes it hard to concentrate on what it is that I am trying to read. That's one of the reasons I like printing out pdf files, and articles I put in text documents, it makes it easier for me to read when trying to concentrate on it. I don't think that I have ever read a book all the way through in my life. I don't even try to read fiction books because reading is just to much work unless I'm trying to learn something. But I do really want to learn all about hydroponics that I can. That by default means learning all about the plants as well, including plant biology, diseases, pests and beneficial microbes. But all I can do is take it one day at a time.

I have the book you mention "hydroponic food production" on my want to get list, along with the "Hydroponic Strawberry production" book that I've been wanting (always low on cash). I have herd the name "Dr. Resh" and knew he was an authority in hydroponics, but didn't know much about him. While looking up his book I came across his website. www.howardresh.com and bookmarked it. I may try to see if they have it at the library. I know that nether the county or collage library's have the "Hydroponic Strawberry production" book, and cant even get it from another library. They did a nation wide search and found only one copy in New York somewhere, and being that far couldn't send it to my library.

NorEastFla 11-03-2010 02:32 PM

Hey GpsFrontier, you may want to check with your local county library about the InterLibrary Loan Service. My country library was getting most of the books I requested from Berkley California. That's about as far from me as you can get and not hit the ocean.

All you need is the ISBN number. You can get that online at any of the large book store sites.

OMG, I don't know what I would have done if I had problems reading. In my lifetime, I would say I've read at least several thousand books. I read at least one book a week, sometimes two.

I read both online and books now, and I guess I read about 6 hours a day. If I couldn't read, it would make me crazy.

Have you thought of learning to read braille? That would at least take the dyslexic problem out of the equation. Would it help you if you had one of those readers that make the print very, very large? Maybe with less print in your field of view, it wouldn't be as hard to read. I have no idea. I'm guessing.

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