The idea of growing plants in environmentally controlled spaces has existed for centuries. Roman gardeners used artificial methods similar to the greenhouse system that is used across the world today. Large commercial organizations and individual residential farmers alike can benefit from a secure and efficient greenhouse system.
In 2017, approximately 8.4 million people were employed within the construction industry across the United States. This year, many of these workers are spending time building massive greenhouses in hopes of improving how crops are cultivated.
Currently, one of the largest greenhouse construction projects is taking place in Morehead, Kentucky. According to Forbes, the new AppHarvest greenhouse is said to be the world's ninth-largest building at more than 2.7 million square feet. Additionally, it will be outfitted with a $15 million hybrid LED lighting system, making it the world's largest LED installation for a single structure.
"To grow, plants require light, water, and nutrients," said Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of AppHarvest. "The LEDs allow us to give more light to the plants throughout the day and night. Because of the increased amount of light, we can more densely plant, increasing the overall yield."
This new massive greenhouse will be able to produce nearly 50 million pounds of tomatoes each year. It's expected to open in the second half of 2020.
"The sophistication of the LEDs allow us to control numerous settings that create what’s essentially a time-based recipe for growth," Webb added. "We can use the LED lighting to influence everything from how compact the plants grow to how they flower."
Though you're probably not going to build a greenhouse anywhere close in size to the ninth-largest building across the globe, by working with the right builders and doing enough research, you can still construct a quality greenhouse for the whole family to enjoy.
Here are some important things to consider when constructing your own greenhouse:
- Decide between freestanding or attached -- First, you need to decide whether your greenhouse will be attached to your home or an entirely new space. In order to save some cash, you might want to just attach a greenhouse to your existing home -- because it can cost a lot to heavily insulate a new structure.
- Beware of pests -- The last thing you want is to construct a nice greenhouse and have to deal with all kinds of invasive pest damages. The U.S. pest control industry has more than 27,000 different organizations currently in operation -- and growing every year. Make sure you're consulting with experienced pest professionals in order to protect your greenhouse.
- Foundation -- You and your construction team have a lot of materials and methods at your disposal. A popular option is to use concrete piers tied together with the framing of the older structure that once was there. Try not to overbuild your greenhouse, as well. Additionally, a report by the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia showed that going modular can reduce overall construction costs by as much as 20%.
- Length and width proportions -- A greenhouse that is shorter than it is wide doesn't have to have extremely long windows during the day. Since the sun will spend a lot more time heating a greenhouse with a long east-west axis, you need to carefully consider the structure's length and width proportions.
- Insulation -- Insulation is key to a productive greenhouse. Foam insulation or structural insulated panels (SIPs) work well but these will need to be sealed and kept dry since they aren't rated for typical greenhouse humidity levels.
- Careful with material handling -- The two most common framing materials are wood and metal. It's important, however, to remain cautious when breaking down or handling these materials -- especially if they have been there for a while. Respirable crystalline silica are very small particles -- at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand -- and are created when cutting, sawing, and crushing various types of materials.
If you have a green thumb and want to start producing more and more crops, it's time to consider getting a team of builders together and start constructing a quality greenhouse your whole family will love.