Helping Our Customers Succeed

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Helping Our Customers Succeed | American Hydroponics  

Welcome to our monthly webinar from American Hydroponics. I’m Jenny Harris and this is Joe Schwartz. You probably recognize both of us both from a lot of our Facebook live videos or our other webinars so here we are.

Normally we’re over on the other side of the HC OE greenhouse, but here we are in from the vine crops. You see behind us some brand-new tomato plants – they’re nice, and it’s a beautiful view right here. We’re going to talk to you a little bit about what our hydroponics company does and who we are. You may not know if you’re new to the industry or just kind of checking things out, you may not know exactly who AmHydro is so I’m going to give you a little bit of history about the company, and then we’re going to tell you how we can help you as a grower succeed in your business.

AmHydro (i.e. American Hydroponics) is located in Northern California and we were founded in 1984, so we’ve been around for 34 years which has been a long time. And in that time, we have seen everything about hydroponics come and go and we just keep going along with the flow.

We have some tremendous expertise – you all know Joe of course, one of the leading voices in the hydroponic industry right now. Our staff has over one hundred years of experience. Within our staff, and not only hydroponic, but many of our growers have also done dirt farming or soil farming as well. So, they have experience in both hydroponic and soil, but we do have over a hundred years of hydroponic commercial growing.

Another thing you may not know is that all of our components are made right here in the US, so all of our channel is made here in the US our trades are actually made right here in Humble, California – (Northern California). Our channel also is the only FDA approved food grade HDPE which is why they’re so durable. We have customers that have been using our channel content for over 20 years. The same exact channel so our channels are designed to last, and they’re designed to last a long time – just like your business.

We have customers in over 66 countries around the globe, and many across the United States and North America. So, what I’d really like to get down to is how we help our customers succeed.

Our philosophy here at AmHydro is to ensure that we help every grower understand what hydroponics mean and what this business going to mean for the majority of our customers that go into a hydroponic business.

We do have schools that are using it. We have a system now at the University of Arizona Boston College, and a lot of other universities, and a lot of high schools are starting to teach hydroponics. We have elementary schools that also use our systems – we have developed a system specifically for elementary schools that can go from classroom to classroom so that each of the kids can have an opportunity to learn how to grow in a hydroponic system.

The majority of our customers are people probably like you who are looking to start a hydroponic business and so every business and every customer that we come across, we want them to be accessible as possible.

Hydroponics is becoming really popular right now, so every customer that we outfit with a system we want to make sure that they’re successful and just to raise the entire industry up so that’s what we do and we have a couple of different ways of doing this.

The first way if you’re brand new to hydroponics which is super simple is just with the get growing packages. We only manufacture the growing system – we don’t make greenhouses, we don’t make environmental controls, but of course Joe’s going to talk to you a little bit about the partnerships we have with all of the players in the industry.

Even with the growing package, which is considered a standard package. We also have a commercial-grade package, and our most popular, of course, is the 10k – and that produces 2592 plants every single week. Also, that comes with a greenhouse just like what you see here.

The environment controls the nutrient system with everything except the land and construction of the of the greenhouse is included in this package it comes with a year all of our systems that we sell, it comes with a year of annual support and we do that because we want you to get ahold of us if you have any questions. We don’t care if you call us, email us, FaceTime, Skype, Whatsapp us, we deliver support in every way possible. We can even come out to your facility. And we do that typically with standard packages, and we know that every location is different.

So, Joe I don’t know if you want to talk about all the different vendors that we work with.

Sure – what we’ve done for many years is designed and build hydroponic growing systems for specific commercial farms, but based on consumer demand changes in the industry, we’ve had a lot of interest in kind of the if you will turnkey or all-in-one package. We have people that have come to us that are looking for the whole package – they want consulting and training and they want a greenhouse hydroponic system with a high level environmental controller basically all put into one kind of a farm in a box if you will.

For a lot of years, we really hadn’t done that, specifically because as we’ve worked with worldwide leaders in environmental control systems, some of the top greenhouse manufacturers in the world, biological pest control companies – we really have worked with the best and developed a great network of some of the best of the best across the board in the industry.

So, based the needs of the consumers, we have put together these bundles that really provide the very best in terms of both value productivity and quality so we kind of wanted to put all of them together for people now while we’ve talked about these bundles as kind of a turnkey, all-in-one package everyone is very specific; however, because depending on where you are based on your geography infrastructure that you have there are certain considerations on the type of greenhouse structure and the type of environmental controls that we use say in the northern Canadian territories is very different than what would you say in the Caribbean.

So, all of our components we specifically designed a get growing bundle like a 10k growing model – has the same size greenhouse the same size growing system has approximately the same productivity, but a lot of the features of the greenhouse and growing system are specifically custom and modified for your specification, so while it is a turnkey package, it is not kind of cookie cutter one size fits all.

So, depending on where you are, depending on your situation, the package will be specifically designed for you so that’s kind of unique in the industry we don’t have a lot of those types of opportunities, but we’ve spent 30 years developing relationships with all the leading manufacturers in North America and beyond and, so we want to put that together to provide the best value and we’ve built numerous get growing bundle systems over the past two years. We have several more on the construction right now and so they’re very popular and for many consumers, that’s really the best way to go.

For example, just like what Joe was saying is we do work with all sorts of different ones and specifically talking to the get growing bundles we can give you an example we work with Atlas greenhouse or Agrotech, we’ve worked with are Noix and Nexus, we’ve worked with all different greenhouse companies to provide what would make you most successful in the in the industry and win where you are in your location.

For example, we have one customer who just received his equipment from us, but how that worked was you know his budget was a little bit off we have no problems introducing you directly to the greenhouse manufacturer and you can discuss with them because that’s their expertise. Our expertise is in growing systems, our expertise is in horticulture, and in growing in a controlled environment and our expertise is the knowledge in the hydroponic industry. We’re a greenhouse manufacturer, their expertise is in a greenhouse so we would introduce you, we could handle it if you wanted to, but otherwise we can introduce you to the greenhouse manufacturer and in the case of the one account that I’m thinking of, he was a little shy in his budget to have the standard greenhouse and so we introduced him in this case to Atlas greenhouse, and he was very close – he was really only about an hour’s drive from Atlas so he talked directly to them and outlets set him up with a greenhouse that was still a perfectly suitable for his location. A commercial greenhouse – it came in about ten thousand dollars less than what we traditionally would have put in our budget, so by being able to talk directly to the vendor and having us being able to introduce him to that particular vendor, he was able to save a little bit of money because of the location he was in, so that’s an example.

Greenhouse manufacturers we work with of course, Seeds is another one that we you know we talk a lot about sometimes we get like Joe just mentioned we just had a conversation with someone up in the northern territories wanting to grow a certain type of seed. Well, that would be or a certain type of lettuce than what our customers in the Caribbean or in Singapore or in India or in Japan what they might want to grow or even in Louisiana even though it might be let’s just say it would be a different variety that was more that is better suited for their particular location.

For us, it’s all about the grower having a successful business and that successful business clearly means profitable business so you have to be able to sell to grow and sell marketable produce at the end of the day and that’s what would make your business and what would make our relationship with you a success is the idea that you’re able to sell marketable produce and regardless of what that produce is it might be a lettuce mix or romaine or some variety of that and you can call us up and we can help you based on your location with our relationship with the different seed companies we make a recommendation to you about what lettuce or what romaine or maybe a specific type of basil or something else that will grow really well in your region and work for your market.

So, those bundles, even though Joe mentioned they are kind of cookie cutter in the sense that they come with everything you need turnkey or not, we would not sell something that we did not feel would not make you a successful grower.

Another huge significant portion of our business is the custom systems and when we say custom systems sometimes people get a little bit freaked out because they think oh well custom means more pricing is exactly the same the difference is you might already have a greenhouse or you might have only space in your location for a certain size greenhouse – well, with that we can size out the green house for you and then we can design a system that is the most product most product productivity possible in that green house and we can design the system for you so whether you get an eight-foot channel or a 12-foot channel or we have customers that have 20 feet channel, the price is no different – it’s always the same price – we sell it by the linear foot, so, you’re not paying more if you have an 8 foot channel versus a 12 foot channel versus anything else you’re paying the same price per square per linear foot is anything else, so that makes us a little bit unique.

Our custom systems cost no more than it would be for a standard system. With that custom system, we can work with whatever you have. Again, our goal is to make you successful because as you’re successful, we become successful as well. So, that means sharing greenhouse sharing the different seed vendors may be the environmental controls or maybe nutrient delivery systems – whatever it is, we want to work with you to make you successful and make those introductions for you in the industry. The other piece that’s probably the best thing that AmHydro really excels at is our expertise with our 34 years in the business.

There’s no one that really has more knowledge than we have both in our staff and just in the longevity in the business, so we do a lot of consulting we do if you have a big project, anything an acre or larger, we can do project management for you right from the inception from the concept all the way through to harvesting your first harvest and your workflow we can do farm management again when you have these larger projects and you’re working on multi acre projects we can come in and do farm management.

What most people are interested in is the consulting side of the business and the other thing before we get into the consulting just to let you know we also provide a year’s worth of grower support for every system we sell because again, we want to make sure that you’re doing this correctly and in a way that makes money for you.

Joe, you want to tell us a little bit about the consulting side of things?

Sure. A lot of the commercial consulting that growers need can vary quite a bit depending on the situation of the grower. I’ve been consulting in the commercial industry worldwide for about 17 years and we’ve been able to bring AmHydro’s additional experience and we can offer consulting services literally from start to finish of a project or very individual specific components to your growing plan so whether you need assistance with biological pest control, whether you need assistance with system and greenhouse design, custom applications workflow management, crop scheduling, actual cultural practices, etc. – we have growers all the time that want to understand what the best way to  prune is and lower and lean their tomato plants for example what varieties of lettuce are better for cut salad mix versus whole heads. I mean really it runs gamut for whatever information. We’ve been commercial growers, as Jenny mentioned. We’re over a hundred years of commercial growing experience. I have almost 60,000 hours of greenhouse time, which is a long time, but basically we’ve seen a lot that’s in the industry.

We bring our experience and can provide that to you and rather than just kind of offering kind of an all and all-encompassing course if you will or training. We can offer very specific components. That being said, we can also write growers manuals for operations. We do grower training, we’ve trained a number of commercial growers who are now in some of the more notable and high-profile commercial farms across the United States and Canada. We can also do troubleshooting – that’s also a lot of what we do so if you’re having specific production issues or problems we can come in and evaluate what’s going on and make recommendations increasing your production, lowering pests and disease problems, all of these things are things that we would offer, so any situations of problems that you have, we can certainly talk to you and you can contact us, talk to us about what’s going on or what you need, and we can help you from there. With that, you know the other thing is we can offer growers support training so you want to learn about grower training and we can do that in a number of ways.

Joe mentioned of course writing the manuals and stuff like that, but one of the most common ways we do that and, you’ll notice on your screen if it’s not up there now, it’s going to come up is we have these grower seminars that we offer and their two-day growers cinema seminars and you not only get the horticultural and the plant biology as well as the business side of things but you’re going to work in the greenhouse as well and it has been a tremendous time and we keep the class as super small. We don’t allow more than 15 people at a time to come to the classes and that’s very intentional right because everybody has again their unique situation so in the last seminar we had we had people here from burkina faso, we had people here from that want to start a hydroponic in India, we had people that wanted to start something in Idaho, and people in one start in Texas, so you can see all of those are really different locations and that allows them a lot of time, a lot of interactions to say yeah, but what about when it gets really hot outside you know how or how do you deal with humidity and so that two days worth it’s packed and full of information, but you get to come in here in the greenhouse and really work it and see what’s it’s going to take for me to make a viable business out of this. We have a special up there on the screen for you and I would encourage all of you I think we have we’re getting close to capacity as I mentioned – we keep them super small, around 15 people, so I would encourage you if you have any interest at all to be sure and sign up for that because our classes always sell out, we always end up with a full class.

And the other thing that we have is a course every Thursday, we have a Facebook live. It’s just a three to five minutes, we of course have our seminars once a month we have the webinar just like this one. Our next webinar is September 20th and that one’s going to be on hydroponic seed varieties so there may be some seeds that are great in the field and you want to take those and you’ve had great luck with them out in the field and you want to bring them inside and they just you know fail miserably here in in the greenhouse well we can give you some tips on what you want to look for and have a successful greenhouse seed variety in all that whether it’s lettuce or tomatoes cucumbers chard kale whatever it is we’re going to give you some tips on what might be the best greenhouse seed greenhouse varieties to grow so hope you enjoyed it!



IntelliDose Automatic pH and Nutrient Doser – How It Works | American Hydroponics

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IntelliDose Automatic pH and Nutrient Doser – How It Works | American Hydroponics  

Hi, I’m Kelly with American Hydroponics and I want to talk to you about our pH Mini Doser. It’s a really simple doser unit and it just adds pH adjustor to your reservoir, as needed, to maintain your pH levels. It saves you a lot of time and energy and makes your plants really happy. The pH Mini Doser is a very simple unit. It just manages the pH levels in your reservoir. There are a few settings here. You have your set point, your dose times, your dose intervals, if you want it to lower or raise your pH, to force a dose, your alarms, and your calibration. So it’s very simple to set. If I wanted to change my set point, right now we’re reading 5.9 pH, I go to menu, settings, go down and it says S1, so that’s S1 and that’s my set point and if I hit edit I can change that let’s say to 6.0. When you release the edit button, it’s saved. Now I’m on S1 which is my set point, I can change my dose time, so I choose S2. Dose time is the amount of time that the pump stays on every time that it doses. So on this one 1 second is actually appropriate for the size reservoir. If I go down to S3 which is my dosing interval, that’s how long it waits between doses and I have it set at 20 minutes if I wanted to change this let’s say 15 minutes because it’s a pretty small reservoir, I hit edit, get to 15, release and that’s set. If you want to change between lower and upper you would do it here at S4. If I wanted to force a dose, I can go in here and the pH is the off I can push edit, change it to on and as you can see the pH will dose. It will always default back to off because you don’t want to continually be forcing. And then we have the alarm deviation at 6. So right now it’s saying that if it goes point five outside of your set point that the alarm will go off. This is probably a little bit tight so I’m going to change this to 1.0 so if it goes below 4.9 or above 6.9 it will set off an alarm. You then have your alarm dose count per hour so currently it set at if it dosing more than 10 times in one hour it will set off an alarm. Usually they won’t do that that often but that would give you a heads up that maybe something is wrong with either your solution or the probe if it is dosing more often than that. Then you have S8 which is your alarm on and off. Right now we have it set to off but if you want it to audibly make noise in your grow room you can just change it on. And then we have the calibration screens so it’ll always tell you to calibrate 7 first and 4 second. The reason is is that you calibrate to 7 and then you calibrate to 4 so that it has a middle plate between 0 and 7 so it stays fully calibrated.

Once you take the probe and you put it into the calibration solution, you always want to let it sit for three to four minutes so that it temperature compensates and then you can actually edit this. Hold edit and you can move it up to exactly 7.0 and get it set in and then once you’ve calibrated to the 7 you calibrate to the 4 and you hit menu and you can go to your basic readings. The pH is 6.7, your dose count time is seven seconds, and your dose count per hour is 4 and that your system is okay, everything is running fine. So you go back to settings and just give it one second it’ll go right back to your reading and that’s it, that’s the pH Mini Doser. From all of us here at American Hydroponics, happy growing



How To Start A Hydroponics Business

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How To Start A Hydroponics Business – American Hydroponics Webinar

Hi, welcome to our webinar. I’m Jenny from American Hydroponics and we are out in one of our greenhouses right now so some of the noises that you are hearing are our roof vents closing, but hopefully you can hear everything going on. So just want to give you a quick look at our greenhouse here. We’ve got vine crops, we’ve got some NFT things growing, we’ve got some other little baby plants on this side all growing in our greenhouse. So what we’re going to be talking about today is how to start a hydroponic business. Let me give you a little bit of house cleaning stuff, just some basic instructions and if you are looking at this and you see a comment section on the right side of your screen, minimize that, close that and there are some arrows up at the top, you’ll want to close that and get as full screen as possible because we will be showing some slides with information on them and they will be easier to see if it is full screen. Right after this webinar is over, you will be receiving a link that goes to the webinar so you can rewatch it if you need. You will also be receiving a PDF file of all of the slides that we show so if the font is too small or it goes by too fast, don’t worry, you will be sent all of the information after. So welcome to everybody. We have about 100 people signed on to this webinar right now, that’s the max that we take. We assume that we will be getting some questions here. Feel free to ask any questions you want down beneath the screen, there’s a question section, so feel free to send those questions in and we will try and answer all that we can at the end.

If we don’t get to your question, we will send out a Q&A email so that all of the questions can be answered. As I mentioned there are about a hundred people who are involved in this webinar right now and they’re from all over the world. We have people from Pakistan, Jamaica, and India. We have 13 countries represented right now. We ourselves, American Hydroponics, are located in Northern California, in Humboldt County. So this whole presentation, the whole idea of how to start a hydroponic business is based on a North American view on entrepreneurialism. So if you are somewhere else in the world certainly all of these concepts are valid and are great to take with you. They may be a little bit unfamiliar to you, but they are definitely things that you can use to start your hydroponic business anywhere in the world. If anyone did not get a chance to attend this webinar and you want them too, just go ahead and forward this link to them. It will also be available on our website after December 25th because at the end of this broadcast for everyone who’s watching, there’ll be some special offers just for those that are actually attending this webinar. There are some pretty special offers for you there. So let’s continue on. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen right here so that way you are going to see me in split screen. Okay, so, how to start your hydroponic business. Let me tell you a little bit about who we are, as I said my name is Jenny, and here at American Hydroponics, or AmHydro, as we’re known, we’ve actually been around for over 30 years. We were found in 1984 right here in Humboldt County in Northern California and we’ve been helping hydroponic growers for the last 30 plus years.

So we’ve been at this a long, long time. Not only have we been in business manufacturing hydroponic systems for that long, but everybody who works for us has experience growing. As you can see this greenhouse here and we have two small R & D greenhouses right at our warehouse too. Our employees are encouraged to go in and grow things for their friends and families to better understand how we do it. Between our staff here whether you’re calling me or Rudy or Joe or Hailey or Lorelei or anyone who answers the phone, we have over 100 years of growing experience, of actual hydroponic growing experience between us. So you’re going to get to talk to people who don’t just have the knowledge but have the practical experience as well. We ship to over 60 countries since 2012 so we don’t just operate here in the U.S. we operate all over the world. We have hundreds of growers here in the U.S. Everything from small mom and pop, weekend warriors we call them who might have an NFT 1200 that puts out 250 plants per week. Maybe they go to their Farmer’s Market every week and they sell their plants at the farmer’s market. We have large, multi-acre facilities that have dozens and dozens of employees working there and they put out 35 to 40 thousands plants per week. Those businesses that have started just like you’re starting. They are starting with something small and working their way up and expanding. They distribute and they sell to Costco, they sell to large grocery store chains, and they sell to Whole Foods and we have everything in between that as well. So where ever you are looking to start whether it’s something to just make a little extra money because you love gardening and being involved in your community or you have several investors and you want to keep going and growing and distribute, we can help you either way.

There are some things to consider before you actually start your business. The number one thing we always tell our customers or anyone who’s interested in starting a business is: it’s a great business, and it’s definitely up and coming right now. It’s a really great investment but you are still farming, and farming is a lot work. You have to consider that it is an every day job and unless you have trained someone to come in and check on it while you’re gone, you have to check on your greenhouse every single day. And what we like to say is you really need to have your eyes on every plant every day. In this greenhouse right here we have 5,000 plant sites and it’s a small greenhouse but it doesn’t mean that you’re going through checking every plant site, but it does mean that you walking through the greenhouse and you’re considering what’s the temperature like? What’s the humidity like? Do I see any kind of pest infiltration or disease on any of my plants? You want to catch those things right away. Some people have said that putting a webcam in might be a great idea and while a webcam might is super, a webcam is not going to replace you walking through your greenhouse everyday and it’s not going to replace keeping your eyes on the actual plants. When you consider this you have to consider that you are still farming and you want to consider your investment, and what your involvement is going to be. Are you going to be a passive owner? Are you going to hire a grower who comes in and actually manages the plants for you? That’s great! Get a good grower and that’s a great model. Are you going to be entirely active? Are you going to be the grower for your own greenhouse? What is your start-up capital? Are you going to self fund it or are you planning on getting an investor to help you? What are your expenses going to be? You’re going to need enough cash, like any good small business start up, to get through the first six months. Is this going to be a solo effort? The greenhouse that we are in now is a 30 by 96 and that is something that one person can pretty much run on their own. Or is this going to be a team effort? Are you going to bring other people in and have help? Another important thing to consider before you start your business is what kind of person are you? Are you a plant geek that loves the botany and biology and physiology of the plants themselves and that really excites you? Or are you a sales person that loves getting out there loves the idea of dealing right with your community? These two things are great things, but in a job like this and a business like this, you have to be both.

Just a quick little story; we had one customer who was a fantastic grower and he grew some of the most beautiful produce, but he couldn’t sell it because he didn’t like dealing with people. And so we went down there and said all you have to do is take some of this stuff to any of the fabulous restaurants that are in your community here and they will absolutely want to buy your produce. But he decided that being a people person wasn’t for him so he sold his business to someone else. That’s something that you need to consider. Are you in it for the growing aspect, or for the people aspect? It’s great if you are in it for the combined aspect and that is how you become the most successful. What’s your time frame? Is your time frame right now? Do you want to be starting now, immediately, and you want to hit the ground running right now? That’s great! There’s a little bit of ground work that you have to do first. Do you have a greenhouse already and do you have space for the greenhouse?

Are you looking at 1-2 months from now? That’s a pretty short time frame. Are you looking at six months from now? That’s ideal! That gives you a chance to give us a call we can work through with you what exactly are you looking for, what is your market like, what’s the best greenhouse for you, what kind of system, do you want an NFT system to grow leafy greens or do you want a vine crop system that grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers or combination of those two? Six months is really an idea time frame. Or maybe a year from now or maybe you’ve just joined this webinar and you’re just checking out the whole idea. Well this is a great place to start because we have a lot of really great information to help you decide all of those things.

So now we’ve kind of talked about before you even jump into this and you’ve decided that you’re serious and you say OK I really do want to do a business, you need to do the research and to do the research you need first and foremost research what will make you successful. If there’s one thing that will make you more successful than doing any other thing it’s understanding your market. Every market is unique. As I said, we sell around the world and the market in Lagos, Nigeria is very different than the market in San Francisco, California or even in Trinidad and Tobago where we have have growers. So you need to understand what your market is. You also need to understand what can you sell in your market? Local produce commands a higher price than any other type of commodity pricing. For example, if you live on the East coast in the U.S. and you buy a head of iceberg lettuce at the grocery store, there’s a 90% chance that lettuce has been shipped to you from either California or Texas and it has taken three or four days to get there and so you get it the day it comes off the truck and it’s already four, maybe five days old, but they grow it in such huge quantities that the price is much lower and they have a lower margin. If you buy something from your local farmer, you’re getting something that’s super fresh, maybe maybe not even hours old from the time you deliver it to your customers. It’s beautiful, fresh, and tastes fantastic! That’s what commands the higher price. So you need to understand what your market charges. And what are some high value items that you put into your market? Do you have an ethnic market? Do you have something like Asian greens? Say you have a large market or Asian greens and there’s no consistent supplier out there. Do you have a large market for culinary herbs? Maybe have some fantastic restaurants nearby and they can’t get consistent culinary herbs. Those are the sort of things you want to discover when you’re doing your research and what prices are they charging? Walk around your farmer’s market, walk around your grocery store, ask to talk to the produce manager, go ask and talk to the chefs of local restaurants, people love to talk about what they are doing. If you can just talk to them and say hey I’m looking into growing hydroponically and I could supply year round, in a controlled environment, a consistent product to you and if I did what would your wish list be? Here in Humboldt County we have a number of high end restaurants and we had a chef ask us if we could grow cutting celery. Well we had not heard of cutting celery so we went to our seed supplier and ordered some and planted them and they turned out fantastic.

They grew really well in our NFT system and we took them to our chef and he loved them! If you don’t know what cutting celery is, it’s a small plant that looks similar to a cilantro plant. This cilantro plant has a couple more weeks to grow but the cutting celery looks very similar. The cutting celery tastes just like celery so you can use a lot less and not have to use the large stocks of celery. So it has the flavor of celery and chefs love it. So as we show more people the greenhouse and walk more people through it, chefs also come through and we let them taste the cutting celery and they love it and suddenly we start having more orders for cutting celery. So understanding what some of those high value items are is really important when doing research. The other piece of it is how much can you sell? What is your market out there? Do you want something like this which is a 30 by 96 greenhouse and there’s over 5,000 plant sites in here and it produces about 2,500 plants per week. So do you have a market for that much? Or maybe you have a market for a lot more than that, so that can help you understand how you can really sell. Another important part of research is figuring out how much land and space you will need. Will you need permits? Here is California you need a permit for everything you do, however, in other states you don’t need any. So you need to understand what is your locality and what kind of permits will you need for your greenhouse and how much space you need. Then, do you want room to expand? This greenhouse that we are in is called a gutter connect greenhouse house and what it means is when you want to expand, you take another greenhouse just like this, take the wall off, and the two greenhouses are going to be connected by a gutter up there. So you can expand using the same greenhouse and you can just keep adding on. That’s how commercial produce growers that grow in greenhouses do it. They start with a couple greenhouses and then keep adding on.

Or will you only need one greenhouse because you know that when you’re going to expand you’re going to expand in different locations. In that case you might want of Quonset style greenhouse. They are less expensive but are still an absolutely official and viable way to grow but you can’t just add on side by side, you have to get a whole other greenhouse. Another thing you want to consider is walking the land. Walk the land where your greenhouse is going to go at different times of the day. Is a bunch of shade covering up the space where you want to put your greenhouse? IF so, that’s not good because your plants need sunlight to grow, around 12 to 14 hours a day sunlight to grow. So if your greenhouse is going to be in between two large trees, there is going to be a lot of shade and that’s not going to be ideal. Can you utilities to your site? Can you get water, electricity, and natural gas? These are the things that your greenhouse is going to need. So walk the space where you’re looking at putting your greenhouse and see what’s it like if you were to have a greenhouse there. Will you have adequate shade? Will you be able to get utilities there? Another thing is if you have people come and pick up at your greenhouse, whether it’s delivery trucks or consumers, is it easily accessible for those type of pick-ups? So you’ve done your research and you have a really good idea of what your market is, what prices can be charged, how much you can sell, and you found the ideal location for your greenhouse, now you have to start getting prepared.

To be prepared, you have to go through all that icky stuff right. You need to talk to your legal team, whatever that. You need to find a good business attorney and find out if you’re going to open your business with a partner. Do you have a partnership agreement in place? Do you need to file business permits? Do you have to apply for any greenhouse permits? You need to find that all out as you’re starting to get ready to start your business. You also really need to understand your costs and expenses. The number one reason businesses fail because they’ve overestimated their income potential and they’ve underestimated their expenses. So take a look at your costs, expenses, and potential revenue and plan for low revenue months. Plan for months where, for whatever reason you don’t sell as much as you had expected. Are you going to apply for a business loan? If so, start doing that now. We can actually help you, we have a couple of customers who use different financing vehicles and we’re happy to keep that information out if you’re looking for a way to finance your business, just give us a call and we can help you with that. You also want to be prepared physically. Your greenhouse site might need to be leveled, you might need to cut down a few trees, you might need to get some infrastructure into that site, or maybe you need to finalize the purchase agreement. Whatever it is, you need to be physically prepared to start your business. The construction part really depends on what kind of greenhouse you’re going to get. Who’s going to do the construction of the greenhouse? Are you and some friends going to do it? Are you going to hire a specialized team to come in and do it? Just give us a call! We can help you design your system and we will order up your system and it usually takes between 4 to 8 weeks to design, manufacture, and deliver your system.

So I have people that are handing me questions so that we keep going through them and we will address these questions. One that just came in was about FDA rules and regulations and I’m assuming that this is about the safety modernization act and we can absolutely help you with this. We have someone that is pretty well versed on the whole idea of food safety. The beautiful thing about it is that if you’re growing hydroponically and if you’re growing in controlled environment agriculture, CEA, about two-thirds of the food safety modernization act doesn’t apply to you. A lot of what that applies to is no birds flying over your open fields, no dogs walking through your fields, making sure there’s no dirt being tracked in and out of your packing area; we don’t have any of that hydroponically. So hydroponically speaking, the safety modernization act becomes very easy to comply to.

The last piece of this before we move on is the emotional part. No kidding or joking, it is stressful to own your own business. It’s also really exciting and satisfying and wonderful! Everything about owning your own business has emotions attached to it. So if you’re ready to jump in there and work and really see the satisfaction of building something with your own hands and with family and friends being involved, then owning a business like this is really exciting.

All right, so what does it actually take to get started? This is where we are going to talk a little bit more about the greenhouse. Growing in a greenhouse is referred to as controlled environment agriculture, and I’m not sure if you can hear the fans that are going or not, but everything here is controlled for optimizing the growth of your plants. So that’s what makes it possible to grow consistently, year round, beautiful produce such as lettuce and basil. Growing in a greenhouse allows you to grow even in the middle of winter so that you can continue to deliver fresh produce when otherwise you could only grow a few months out of the year. So as I mentioned, this is a gutter connected greenhouse. It’s more expensive but it can be specifically engineered for your location. For example, we had a customer that was down in the Caribbean that wanted this exact greenhouse for his set up and they didn’t just take the same greenhouse we have here and send it down there, they had to make some changes. Here in Northern California we have a pretty temperate climate but in the Caribbean, they have hurricanes and tropical storms so the greenhouse had to be built to withstand those conditions. So when you’re deciding on what type of a greenhouse to get, some of the biggest factors to consider are cost and locality. How much do you have to spend on your greenhouse and what is the weather like where you are looking to put your greenhouse? Another factor is who is going to construct it and do you want to expand? If you do, you will need a greenhouse that can expand with you. How long will it take to construct? Again, it depends on the greenhouse. It could take you and maybe five or six friends a few weeks to construct a Quonset style greenhouse. If you’re going to do something like this, a gutter connect greenhouse, you probably want to get a professional crew and it will probably take two to two and a half months to construct something like this. In this greenhouse we had a cement pad put in, you don’t have to have this but we put hydronic heating in it and those sort of things are going to add to which type of people you get to construct your greenhouse. And again, do you have utilities at your greenhouse and are they ready to go? That is something you will have to have for your business.

Next is the system. As you can see, this is an NFT system, and over there where the tomatoes and cucumbers are growing is a vine crop system. What kind of system are you going to choose and who is going to set it up? The system in this greenhouse is two 80 foot long tables and would take two guys about 5 days to set up. You can always hire us and we can send some of our employees out to set up the system for you, but you are perfectly capable of setting something like this up. Then you will want to start your seeds. You can actually start your seeds before your tables are complete because the seeds live in propagation trays for the first two weeks. Then what you’ll want to do it start delivering some samples. If you don’t have some solid orders already, you’ll want to take some samples to chefs for a few weeks so they can taste what you’re growing. By doing this, they can see the consistency, the quality and the taste of what you’re growing.

 

Next, we’re going to talk a little about market. Who is your market? Is it chefs? Produce managers? Grocery stores? Farmer’s markets? Are you selling direct to customers in some kind of CSA? CSA is a consumer supported agriculture which means you get a lot of people together, about 20 to 30, and everyone pays a flat rate up front and every week they get to take whatever is harvestable that week. So they get a variety of things each week, it’s great for them and it’s great for you. So that’s model where you can get produce direct to customers.

And then you have the continuity of your business and the continuity of growing your business. Invest time and energy in talking to your customers. That’s the R and D that you want to constantly be going over. When you deliver your produce be sure to make an effort to ask how everything is going for the customer and ask if there is anything else they would like you to grow for them. Ask them if the quality is still up to standards. Listen to your customers. Ask them if they like the samples that you have been bringing or maybe they put in a special request for a certain product that you try out for a few weeks. Another thing for the continuity of your business that is really important is to develop new growers in your greenhouse. Take family and friends for example, in our company my 17 year old nephew comes in and he works for us and he has been working for us for about 7 months. He is now able to come in on the weekends so I don’t have to and he can look and see if there is any powdery mildew or pests in the greenhouse. So that’s how you develop new growers because he loves doing this and that’s what he wants to do so you have to start them out and train them right. Interns from any local campus such as a high school, a vocational school, a community college or university, interns are a great way to train growers and they work for free so it’s even better! We often get interns internationally that say hey I would love to come over and stay for two months if you could just put me up I would love to come and work for you to learn more about hydroponics. That’s a great way to learn how and to develop a new grower as well. Instructors from many of those same campuses that I have mentioned are great to bring into the greenhouse too. I really encourage you, for the continuity of your business, to listen to your customers and continue with the R and D and also develop new growers for your greenhouse.

The last thing that I wanted to share with you is we have Get Growing bundles that make it super easy to get started. These are all on our website and you can download all of the details but these come with the greenhouse, growing system, and all of the environmental controls. As a matter of fact, this greenhouse right here is one of our Get Growing bundles and it’s everything you need. We don’t manufacture the greenhouses ourselves, we partner with some of the leading greenhouse manufacturers here in North America to design and engineer the greenhouse specifically for your location. If you go on our website to the bundles, or even to the online store, you can download all of the different bundles and details of exactly what comes with them. We’ve done all the work or you get everything you need together to start your business. Some of the sizes that we offer are the NFT 15K that can produce 3,780 plants per week and it goes in a 30 ft by 144 ft greenhouse. This one as I mentioned is a 30 ft by 96 ft greenhouse and it produces up to 2,592 plants per week and you can see all the way down to the little systems that come with everything except the greenhouse. They come with technical support, growing supplies, the growing systems, everything you need to get started. And that’s actually all listed on our website or you can e-mail us we’re happy to send it, but we have two different versions of it just as a heads up, one is a commercial version that comes with the gutter connect greenhouse and the other is the small business bundle that comes with the Quanset style greenhouse and is a little less expensive.

That’s pretty much everything for this webinar so we will answer a few questions now. The first question is about financing and AmHydro doesn’t supply financing but we do have partners that have worked with our customers before, they know our system, and they know what we are capable of. I don’t think I mentioned it but our channel is guaranteed for 10 years. We have customers that have been using our channel for over 20 years and still use it. We have a couple of different companies who have financed this so if you are looking for financing, we could connect you directly to them. Another question is does building require dirt, gravel, or concrete for cleanliness purposes? No, you can actually do any one of these things. And as I mentioned we have a concrete floor here in this greenhouse, obviously that’s the ideal because it is really clean and you can just spray it all out if you need to but you don’t have to have concrete. You can use gravel and in the Get Growing bundle we have some ground cover that gives the floor a nice clean look. Here’s another question about pest control. When you buy a system from AmHydro, we provide you with a year’s worth of growing and technical support so if you do have a pest infestation, we can tell you what to do because we have dealt with them all and we can tell you how to best combat the pests. And as far as food safety, generally we recommend integrated pest management and that means using bugs to fight other bugs. The most common example is we release ladybugs in our greenhouse once a month and they eat the aphids. And then the ladybugs fly out through the vents once there’s no more food to eat. As for example powdery mildew and something like that we always use OMRI certified products that way we know that they are safe, we know that they are less harmful to the environment, and they’re certified organic. So OMRI is kind of the top tier of organic certification in the U.S. So we always use OMRI certified products and there are lots of them out there. So I think that’s pretty much it for this webinar. We have monthly webinars but if you want to give us a call, chat with us online, or email us, we can answer your questions. Our webinar will be about the Get Growing bundles and that will be January 19th at 1pm. We do our webinars on third Thursday of each month at 1pm. Give us a call! We love to talk hydroponics! Thanks very much and hopefully we will be chatting with a lot of you in the future.



Hydroponic Seeding Techniques

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Hydroponics Seeding Techniques -American Hydroponics Webinar

Hi, I’m Paul with American Hydroponics and welcome to our monthly webinar: Seeding your hydroponic system. Now what we’re going to do this afternoon is talk about a few different ways for how you can seed your hydroponic system. Two of our master growers Jenny Harris and Joe Swartz are here to help us and to demonstrate these different techniques. Again you don’t have to be a master hydroponic gardener to do these, they are very basic and these are what you will start doing when you buy a system from American Hydroponics. So watch closely and if you have any questions or comments use the questions and comments section of the website, type those in and we will take those as we have time. Anyway, let’s get started. Jenny is going to talk about hand seeding.

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