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Some things to consider…..

Interested in starting a greenhouse business? A greenhouse business, as with any new venture can be risky if entered "blind". Producing a salable product is only half the battle. A large amount of capital is invested in the structure and plant materials. In addition to financing and risk taking, starting a business requires experience in or knowledge of the industry. A greenhouse business also requires continuous management, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. But even given all this, it can be a profitable and emotionally satisfying enterprise.

Nothing takes the place of proper planning. A plan is critical and allows a person to evaluate the risks and rewards of a venture on paper before too much money or time are invested. Consider the following before starting a Greenhouse business:


Step 1: Identify your goals – profit, not the love of plants, should be the primary objective.

Why are you starting a business?

What do you want to accomplish?

Talk to others in the greenhouse industry.

Step 2: Determine the market potential of a crop before you grow it.

Who is going to buy your products?

Analyze the competition, what is your advantage over them?

What crop should you grow? Only grow what you can sell.

Step 3: Write a business plan

Business Planning: A Key to Success

Step 4: Select a site

Although a greenhouse can be built almost anywhere, some sites offer advantages over others.


a. Space (minimum area should be about two acres)

b. Zoning (greenhouse operations can only be allowed in certain zones)

c. Building codes

d. Highway access

e. Property values (the cost of land can add significant debt load to a business)

f. Environmental concerns

      1. Water (source, cost, quality, how many gallons will be consumed in a year)

      2. Heat (source, cost)

      3. Waste materials (does run-off become part of the drinking water supply?)

      4. Orientation (should have a slight southerly facing, SE is good, for ideal light)

      5. Electricity (an adequate electric supply and distribution system should be provided)

    g. Climate (what is the potential for high winds, heavy snow fall and hail?)

    h. Slope (drainage is important-greenhouses should be placed on a gravel base 6 – 12 inches above grade)

    i. Labor supply

    j. Potential for expansion

Step 5: Select the type of greenhouse

1. Free Standing Greenhouse

      • Usually the best choice for a small grower planning on less than 10,000 sq. ft. of growing space.
      • Easier to provide separate environments as each house is controlled by its own heating/cooling system.
      • Best suited for to heavy snow areas.
      • Good for non-level sites.
      • Individual greenhouses are easier to build and maintain.
      • Usually less expensive than a gutter-connected greenhouse.
      • Expansion of growing area is easier.
      • Ventilation can be more uniform because of smaller area.Gutter Connected Greenhouse

2. Gutter-connected Greenhouse

      • Most cost effective for growing areas of 20,000 Sq. ft. or more.
      • A major advantage is reduced heating costs as compared to the same amount of area under a single span greenhouse.
      • Less land is needed. Up to 30% more growing space can be placed on the same amount of land.
      • Greater labor efficiency.
      • Utilities are easier to install.
      • Heat can be centralized.
      • Easier to adapt to computer environment control.

Step 6: Decide what you will need inside the Greenhouse

a. Climate control system.

      Greenhouses need to be heated, cooled, or ventilated depending on the time of year. The system controlling these functions should be integrated.

b. Floor (will depend on the type of production being planned).

Bare ground is not recommended as it creates insect and disease problems.

      • Heavy plastic coverings
      • Woven, barrier cloths
      • Gravel
      • Concrete

c. Benches

    Plants can be grown on the ground , but accurate and uniform temperature control is difficult to achieve. Benching materials should allow for air circulation and drainage.

    -On fixed bench arrangements, 60 – 70% bench efficiency can be expected.

    -Movable aisle benching can increase this efficiency to 90%.

    -Make sure to conform with Americans with Disabilities Act, for aisle spacing and bench heights is applicable.

d. Root Zone heating system (if plant propagation is planned).

e. Storage and work space.

Don’t overlook warehouse storage and work space for mixing potting media, filling pots, potting and transplanting activities.

Step 7: Contact a Greenhouse Manufacturer

    The time to look into your local zoning, planning commission and fire code requirements is before you get any estimates or drawings. An estimate for building a greenhouse without this information for your specific site is, at best, a shot in the dark, which most likely will end up being costly and frustrating.

Step 8: Join Your State Trade Association

The Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association (CNGA) serves both their memberships and non-member Greenhouse enterprises through the development of educational opportunities, marketing and promotion, energy, safety and insurance programs, and coordination of activities with national and local organizations that track legislation.

The Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association
959 S. Kipling Pkwy, Ste 200
Lakewood, CO 80226.
Phone: (303) 758-6672, (888) 758-6672
Fax: (303) 758-6805

Other resources for beginning Greenhouse Operators

Greenhouse Engineering

By Robert A. Aldrich and John W. Bartock

Publication NRAES-33

Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service

152 Riley-Robb Hall

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY 14853

Phone (607) 255-7654

Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion

By Shane Smith

Fulcrum Publishing

350 Indiana St., Suite 350

Golden, CO 80401-5093

Phone: (303)-277-1623

An Overview of Colorado’s Current Greenhouse Industry


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