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As much as we talk about prioritizing agriculture and putting plant needs first, we know there’s one unavoidable truth when it comes to commercial CEA:

It needs to be economically viable.


That means different things to different people.

  • Maybe you’re funding your business with a bank loan and you need to pay it back and still secure a profit. 
  • Maybe you’re working with investors and you need to realize a defined return.
  • Maybe you’re running a non-profit that must be self-sustaining after an initial grant.

For the majority of growers we work with, it needs to work out economically. The books need to be balanced, and the way we do that as farmers is by growing a product of excellent quality, and at sufficient quantity, so that we can cover our operating expenses, make a dent in our capital expenses, and still have something left over to live on.

Today we wanted to explain how AmHydro’s Crop Turn Technology can be employed to greatly increase your productivity (even more so than some vertical technologies), and your farm’s chances of being economically viable.

What is a Crop Turn?

A Crop Turn is a number determined by how many plants you can harvest, per Finishing Site (the planting holes on each NFT channel), per year. If a system had 10,000 finishing sites, and you could harvest plants on 6-week cycles (seed to harvest), that is 260,000 plants per year. We call this 26 CTT or, 26 Crop Turns per year (each finishing plant site will be harvested 26 times).

Crop Turn is a crucial metric to help plan your business. It speaks to the frequency and reliability of your harvests. The initial stages of growing with an NFT system, requires mastering important variables in order to achieve 26 crop turns per year. Most growers start at about 13 crop turns per year and increase as experience is gained. The bottom line is, plants do not like fluctuations. The more stable you can make your environment (temperature, RH, Conductivity, pH, etc…), the more yield you can achieve.

What is Crop Turn Technology?

“Crop Turn Technology” is AmHydro’s proprietary three step growing process that greatly increases the Crop Turn rate. It takes the conventional hydroponic system involving propagation trays and NFT channels and introduces an intermediary step, “Nursery Channels.” The process looks like this:

    1. Propagation Trays – Densely-packed cubes of growing medium foster plants from seed to seedling.
    2. Nursery Channels – Our unique second step. These channels have plant sites separated by two inches. Enough for them to grow densely until they require more space.
    3. Finishing Channels – Finishing sites are separated by eight inches. It’s much more than seedlings need initially, but for adult greens, it’s an environment that allows growth to maturity.

The benefit of adding an additional Crop Turn step is that juvenile plants can be grown with far more square-foot efficiency than they would be otherwise. The space allocated to Nursery Channels reduces the total number of Finishing Sites, but greatly increases your Crop Turn rate. Purchasing separate channels for Nursery and for Finishing also presents a slightly higher up-front and operating cost, but the financial results make it more than worth it.

We estimate that in a 30’x96’ greenhouse, a growing operation that only uses fully-spaced finishing channels can produce 1,300 plants per week. When you use the three-step process in the same space, you can double your productivity up to 2,600 plants per week.

Horizontal vs Vertical CEA

There are all sorts of approaches to vertical, and many proprietary technologies, however, in comparison with a leading vertical technology provider, we found that AmHydro systems utilizing Crop Turn Technology are actually more productive in terms of plants per square foot. (And that’s to say nothing of the actual quality of plants grown in a greenhouse vs. grown in a container.)

We’ve been open about our concerns when it comes to indoor vertical farming. Faced with the high-profile closures that are still occuring, we know we’re not the only ones. Still, we refuse to disregard the entire concept of vertical – In fact, we have some customers who have deployed AmHydro’s Crop Turn Technology in vertical environments with great success.

What we do hope to highlight is that the conversation is not as simple as choosing between the exceptional quality of a CEA greenhouse, and the incredible quantity of indoor vertical. It is both possible and necessary to pursue quantity and quality, and with Crop Turn Technology, you can have both.

To learn more or to speak with a member of our expert sales team, just shoot us an email.
Let us know how we can help, because your success is our success!

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