Greenhouse farming has grown in Zimbabwe from a niche interest of a select to a mainstream way of doing business. The business of growing horticultural crops. As an admirer of the Wayne Gretzky quote about being where the ice hockey puck is going rather than where it is, I figure being a greenhouse installer and supplier makes a good business idea in Zimbabwe. It’s a little more exciting than it sounds as there are many elements to consider in this business and many opportunities for those who are willing to take it up. Let’s look at greenhouse installations as a business idea.
Greenhouses are buildings or structures designed for the protection of sensitive or delicate crops. They can be constructed from various materials including glass, plastic or other materials. They are used to alter or control climatic conditions to protect plants or enable growing out of season. They have many applications and are closely related to modern farming innovations such as vertical farming and hydroponic farming. However greenhouses themself are not new or modern at all. Nowadays you will see many different shapes and sizes including grow tunnels, grow houses, hydroponic, vertical and other setups.
A lot depends on how wide your offering will be. You may be required to build structures from scratch with timber or you may be putting together ready-to-assemble structures. Putting together timber-based structures sounds simple enough but you will need to understand temperature and climate control dynamics to deliver a greenhouse that is suitable for the crop the customer wants to grow. In construction, you will also need to make considerations for applications like vertical farming and hydroponics if that is what the client desires. Since these things usually go together you will do yourself a favour if you understand hydroponic and vertical farming setups. All this to say technical skills are going to be extremely important in this business.
Hydroponic farming is an interesting farming method because it doesn’t involve the use of soil. Plants are grown completely in water, they sit in trays or pipes. The roots of the plants will be immersed in water which is usually propelled around the pipes to keep the water fresh. Sometimes minerals can be added to the water. It’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the dynamics of hydroponics if you desire to enter the greenhouse installation business.
Vertical farming is another farming method that is synonymous with greenhouses. In vertical farming, the farmer literally stacks plants vertically, one row on top of another. This can be done with soil or hydroponically. The logic behind vertical farming is that instead of concentrating on increasing the area farmed we increase the crop density in the area by adding more plants vertically. This makes it easier and ultimately cheaper to take care of a greater yield.
There are very few businesses where niching is not possible. In fact, niching is the best way to get the most out of many business ideas. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone try offering a very well-catered product to a well-defined group of people. We’ve already looked at hydroponics and vertical farming which are possible niches for you. You can also look at grow houses. These are smaller greenhouses used for germination of seeds and nurturing seedlings. They can also be used for growing small plants. Just remember with niching the two most important things are being clear about who the members of your target niche are and what they place value on.
When it comes to marketing your best bet is to “create your own customers”. This phrase simply means a business that gives people the need for its products. In our example, a greenhouse installer who also happens to teach people about greenhouse farming creates their own customers. By teaching people about greenhouses and helping people by installing greenhouses for them they get the best of both worlds. This would be particularly effective because the concept of greenhouses is well established and when looking for customers you want to go beyond people who know about greenhouses (everyone) to people who are motivated by a need for greenhouses.
Greenhouses continue to gather popularity in Zimbabwe and being in the position of installing and supplying greenhouses is both lucrative and forward-thinking.