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The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Figure 1. Vertical farm greenhouse using sunlight. Eden Greens.

The global greenhouse industry is growing rapidly, and is expected to continue to do so in the coming year as demand for fresh produce increases and more growers turn to controlled environment agriculture to meet consumer needs. This blog is an overview of the current status of the industry.

According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the global greenhouse market was valued at USD 23.94 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 43.67 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 9.3% during the forecast period (2021-2026). The report also estimates that the total greenhouse acreage worldwide is approximately 4.9 million acres.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are among the most commonly grown crops in greenhouses worldwide. Other popular greenhouse crops include lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and flowers such as roses and gerberas. The exact crops grown vary by region, depending on factors such as climate, market demand, and local growing conditions.

The cover materials used in greenhouses vary depending on the needs of the grower and the climate in which the greenhouse is located. Polyethylene film (soft plastic) is the most commonly used cover material. A 2021 study by Rabobank estimates that 92% of global greenhouse acreage is polyethylene. Glass is a traditional and durable option, but it can be expensive and heavy. Polycarbonate is a popular alternative to glass, as it is lightweight and has good insulation properties. Other options include acrylic, ETFE, and fiberglass. The choice of cover material can have a significant impact on the amount of light, heat, and humidity that enters the greenhouse, and can affect the growth and yield of crops.

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Greenhouses vs. traditional outdoor agriculture

There are several motivations for using greenhouses instead of traditional open-field agriculture, including:

  • Year-round production: Greenhouses allow for year-round production of crops regardless of weather conditions or seasonal changes. This is especially important in regions with extreme weather patterns or limited growing seasons.
  • Controlled environment: Greenhouses provide a controlled environment where growers can regulate temperature, humidity, and light levels to optimize plant growth and reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Controlled environments are also less susceptible to weather-related disruptions and climate change and its repercussions.
  • Increased yields: With the ability to control growing conditions, greenhouses can produce higher yields per square foot than traditional field agriculture. This is especially true for high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Improved quality: Greenhouses provide a clean and protected environment that can improve the quality and appearance of crops, resulting in higher market value.
  • Efficient use of resources: Greenhouses can be designed to use resources such as water and fertilizer more efficiently than field agriculture, resulting in reduced waste and lower costs.

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Greenhouses vs. indoor agriculture

Greenhouse cultivation and indoor cultivation using artificial lighting are both forms of controlled environment agriculture, but there are some key differences between the two approaches.

Greenhouse cultivation involves growing crops in a covered structure that allows natural sunlight to penetrate while protecting the plants from the elements. The use of natural sunlight means that energy costs for lighting are low, and the environmental conditions inside the greenhouse are generally more stable than outside. However, the amount of sunlight can vary depending on the weather and time of year, and growers may need to supplement natural light with artificial lighting during low-light periods to maintain optimal growth conditions for crops. In addition, greenhouse cultivation is subject to seasonal fluctuations and can be affected by extreme weather events.

Indoor cultivation using artificial lighting involves growing crops in an enclosed environment using artificial light sources such as LED or high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. This approach allows growers to control all aspects of the environment, including temperature, humidity, and light intensity, which can lead to consistent yields and high-quality crops. Indoor cultivation is not subject to seasonal fluctuations and can produce crops year-round, which can be a significant advantage for growers. However, the energy costs associated with artificial lighting can be high, and the initial investment in equipment can also be expensive.

Overall, greenhouse cultivation is a more cost-effective and energy-efficient option compared to indoor cultivation using artificial lighting. However, indoor cultivation provides greater control over the environment and can produce crops year-round, making it a viable option for certain crops and growing situations. The choice between the two approaches will depend on factors such as the type of crop being grown, the location of the operation, and the goals of the grower.

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Greenhouses trends: present and future

The future looks bright for greenhouse agriculture, as demand for fresh produce and sustainable agriculture practices continue to grow. Here are some trends and developments that are shaping the future of greenhouse agriculture:

  • Technology advancements: The use of technology in greenhouse agriculture is increasing, with innovations such as automation and robotics, spectral control by colored facades and coatings, automated climate control, precision irrigation, and data analytics. These technologies can help growers optimize plant growth and improve resource efficiency.
  • Sustainable practices: Greenhouse agriculture is becoming more sustainable, with a focus on reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, and using organic growing methods. This trend is driven by consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and the need to address climate change.
  • Vertical farming: Vertical farming, which involves growing crops in stacked layers or vertically inclined surfaces, is gaining popularity as a way to maximize space and increase yields. This approach is particularly useful in urban areas where land is limited. It can be done using artificial lighting or sunlight.
  • Shift to local food production: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of local food production, and greenhouse agriculture is well-suited to this trend. With the ability to produce fresh, high-quality produce year-round, greenhouses can play a key role in meeting the growing demand for locally grown food.

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Climate change as a driver for greenhouse cultivation

Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on food production worldwide, and controlled environment agriculture, including greenhouse farming, could play a critical role in ensuring food security in the face of changing climate conditions.

Here are some of the ways that climate change is expected to impact the need for controlled environment food production in greenhouses:

  • Extreme weather events: Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and storms. Greenhouses provide a controlled environment that can help protect crops from the impacts of these events and ensure consistent yields.
  • Heat stress: As temperatures rise, many crops may experience heat stress, which can reduce yields and quality. Greenhouses provide a controlled environment where temperature and humidity can be regulated to optimize plant growth and reduce the risk of heat stress.
  • Water scarcity: Climate change is expected to exacerbate water scarcity in many regions, making it more difficult to grow crops in the field. Greenhouses can be designed to use water more efficiently, reducing waste and ensuring consistent yields even in water-stressed areas.
  • Pests and diseases: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can also affect pest and disease pressure in crops, leading to increased risks for farmers. Greenhouses provide a clean and protected environment that can reduce the risk of pest and disease outbreaks and ensure high-quality, healthy crops.

Overall, the impacts of climate change are expected to increase the need for controlled environment food production in greenhouses, as they offer a more reliable and consistent way to produce food in the face of changing climate conditions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the global greenhouse industry is experiencing rapid growth, with demand for fresh produce driving the industry forward. Greenhouses offer many advantages over traditional outdoor agriculture, including year-round production, a controlled environment, increased yields, improved quality, and efficient use of resources. While greenhouse cultivation and indoor cultivation using artificial lighting are both forms of controlled environment agriculture, the former is generally more cost-effective and energy-efficient. The future of greenhouse agriculture looks bright, with advancements in technology, sustainable practices, vertical farming, and a shift towards local food production shaping the industry. As the world population continues to grow, the greenhouse industry will play a crucial role in meeting the increasing demand for fresh, healthy, and sustainably produced food.

The Status of the Global Greenhouse Industry

Dr. Damon Hebert

Dr. Damon Hebert serves as Director of Agriculture Research for UbiQD, Inc., with a background in solar materials and controlled environment cannabis cultivation. He is an advocate for the use of advanced materials to further the industry’s push towards sustainable farming practices. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Hunter McDaniel CEO & Founder UbiGro

Hunter McDaniel, PhD

Founder & CEO

 Hunter earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, before joining Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Chemistry Division. Ultimately the value proposition of UbiGro is about boosting crop yields and quality without the cost or energy impact of lighting. Hunter has more than fifty publications and patents, and more than 2000 total citations, h-index: 20. Hunter fundamentally believes that novel materials underpin every significant technology advancement, and he is focused on leveraging new materials to have a lasting and sustainable impact.

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Damon Hebert, PhD

Director of Agriculture

Damon brings a wide range of experience in agriculture, materials science, spectroscopy, and small business. During his time in Prof. Angus Rockett’s research group at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Hebert authored a doctoral thesis and multiple papers on the materials science of CIGS semiconductor materials, which is closely related to the materials developed at UbiQD. He also served as a consultant to Nanosolar, a CIGS nanocrystal solar cell manufacturing company. Hebert has industry experience having co-founded Dr. Jolly’s, a leading cultivation and distribution operation in Bend, OR.

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Tania Lafaille

Sales Representative

Tania is a UbiGro Sales Representative, with over 7 years of experience in product sales (specifically berries and avocados) covering all of North America and parts of South America. While in agriculture, Tania has cultivated strong relationships with growers and distributors, granting her a unique insight into both perspectives. That understanding, paired with her fierce dedication to results, drives her fun and fiery commitment to her craft. Tania is based in Gilroy, CA.

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Tyler Veyna

Sales Representative​

Tyler brings 15 years of experience in Greenhouse production and facility management of a wide range of crops in multiple states to the UbiGro team. Based in Salinas, California. “Being a fourth-generation farmer, I look to improve and empower the grower, and with UbiGro, we can do just that.”

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Jim Gideon

Sales Manager

Jim Gideon is an UbiGro Sales Manager, with over 25 years of greenhouse industry sales experience covering all of North America. Previously Jim has worked for Green Tek, Plazit-Polygal, Texel, Cherry Creek, and Nexus. He is based in Montgomery, AL, and Jim believes that “light is everything to the grower.”

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Eric Moody

Director of Sales

Eric Moody is UbiQD’s Director of UbiGro Sales. Eric has more than 6 years of experience in horticulture lighting industry, building relationships with greenhouse growers of all sizes and crops on optimal lighting for their growing operation, and most recently managed a North American sales team for PL Light Systems. Overall, Eric has been in sales leadership positions for more than 13 years. Eric brings with him a great understanding of the market and available technologies for growers, greenhouse facilities, and sales leadership. Reach Eric by phone at 541-490-6421 or by email at [email protected].

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Mike Burrows, PhD

VP of Business Development

Dr. Michael Burrows is UbiQd’s Vice President of Business Development. His educational background includes a Materials Science doctorate from the University of Delaware and an MBA from Duke University Fuqua School of Business. His career has specialized in the commercialization of novel electronic materials in venture-run programs for different industries including solar, biosensors, and the automotive industry. In both start-up and corporate environments, he has extensive experience in global market development, foraging supply chain partnerships, productization, and brand building. He is currently leading UbiQD’s partnership efforts in luminescent greenhouse technology, smart windows, and security ventures.

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Matt Bergern, PhD

Cheif Product Officer

As Chief Product Officer at UbiQD, Dr. Matt Bergren leads the company’s product development efforts, sales, and product manufacturing, including the company’s first commercial agriculture product, UbiGro. He plays a critical role in continuing the company’s path of technology development and vision of powering product innovations in agriculture, clean energy, and security.

He serves as the principal investigator for UbiQD’s contract with NASA, focused on tailoring the solar spectrum for enhanced crop production for space missions. Dr. Bergren’s leadership experience includes serving on the board of directors for the New Mexico Energy Manufacturing Institute, focused on job creation in New Mexico’s energy, and related manufacturing community.