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Introduction to Tunnel Inputs

Out of season (Plastic Tunnel) vegetable production is a highly intensive enterprise requiring substantial labor and capital inputs. Because of this, potential growers should carefully consider all of the factors necessary for a successful enterprise.

Greenhouse (Plastic Tunnel) vegetable production is in many ways a 24-hour-a-day commitment. Greenhouse maintenance, crop production and handling emergencies require constant vigilance. Every 4,000 square feet of greenhouse space requires an estimated 25 to 30 hours of crop care and upkeep.

Greenhouse structures require constant maintenance and repair. Many of the selected greenhouse covers must be replaced on a regular basis. Heating, cooling and watering systems must be maintained and routinely serviced. In addition, contingency plans and backup systems must be in place in case any of these major systems should break down. Even a one-day loss of cooling, heating or water during a critical period can result in complete crop failure.

Along with the essential skills, capital and labor to build, maintain and grow a crop, producers must develop markets willing to pay the relatively high prices necessary to make the enterprise economically viable. Greenhouse-grown vegetables cannot compete with comparable field-grown crops based on price; therefore, greenhouse-grown vegetables often are marketed to buyers based on superior quality and off-season availability.

Finally, the personality and skills of the person or people involved in the enterprise should be considered. As mentioned earlier, this can be a 24-hour-a-day commitment. If you (or your manager) don't have the personality to commit and to be available day or night as needed, then this is not for you. In addition, a successful greenhouse vegetable production operation requires mechanical aptitude, crop production skills and business acumen.

Although greenhouse production is an intensive undertaking, it can be very satisfying and rewarding. One advantage of greenhouse vegetable production is the relatively small amount of area required compared with field-grown produce. In addition, the return on investment can be good if the requisite markets can be found.



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