Mapping the Pathway of Cost Competitive Hydroponic Lettuce Production - Indoor AgTech Ny event June, 2019
Greenhouse farming of leafy greens has been done in Finland on a large scale for decades. Lettuce greenhouse growers are competing with each other, continuously striving to optimize their cost position and have successfully taken over the grocery stores shelves making indoor grown lettuce mainstream. Per capita, Finland has more than 50 times the lettuce greenhouse acreage of the United States. Also, the average lettuce greenhouse in Finland is dramatically more productive per acre.
Understanding the success factors in Finland can serve almost as a checklist for any investor who wants to become involved in the indoor growing space:
• Is the growing system competitive in terms of plant density?
• Is the growing system competitive in terms of labor input?
• Is the energy cost profile competitive?
• Is the Cap-Ex per Annual yield ratio of my facility competitive?
• Is the facility overall large enough to keep management overhead costs competitive?
Studying the Finnish model is very worthwhile for anybody who is serious about indoor production of lettuce and leafy greens.
The key measures and elements to achieving cost parity with the field grown lettuce is maximizing plant density (Yield per area). But striving for highest efficiencies in all areas is crucial. In addition to plant density, labor costs need to be kept low. These are both factors driven by the efficiency of the growing system inside the green house. The one common denominator and used almost exclusively in greenhouses in Finland is the “automated NFT moving gutters system”. Furthermore, greenhouse operations in Finland are typically not located in ultra-local urban areas, but generally based a few hours outside the metropolitan areas. These strategic site decisions have been made to keep land, labor and energy cost-effective. Operations are often deliberately located right next to a large direct use energy/heat source and land needs to be plentiful for large operations, typically 10 acres or more.