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Is it economies of scale?

Posted by mkirkwag Puget Sound (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 9, 12 at 16:08

Does anyone else find that their hydro is prohibitively expensive? I have a very small kit - a Baby Bloomer, which is a 6 gallon reservoir with a container with 10 pots on top. Between the electricity, the nutrients and all the water, these are the the most expensive veggies on the planet.

Part of the problem is that I used the wrong seeds this time and put in a full sized tomato. I know pulling that will help, because it sucks up a gallon a day plus the nutrients to go with. So that's one thing. But still...

I've been using liquid nutrients because I was so disenchanted with by powdered version. It *wouldn't* dissolve. I used warm (then hot!) water, a blend, an airstone...and still 90 percent of it was in the bottom of the reservoir.

I also wonder about scale - growing so few plants may add to the cost?

Anyone have any advice about making this more economical while keeping it a low key venture that requires no more than a few minutes a day?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Is it economies of scale?

Costs of hydro can be the same costs as soil growing. Think about how much miracle grow soil costs. Then there is seedling starter mix you need. Also plant pots, big ones.

Then consider hydro. You need nutrients, reservoir, airstone/air pump, hydroton, and maybe rockwool.

Yes, hydro will cost you more to start off with.

But in the end, most of the things you purchase can be used again and again. In example, the air stone, air pump, hydroton, and reservoir can be considered one time purchases. Air stones may need to be replaced as they get salty but they are really cheap.

Nutrients will cost $30-40 for a good 3-part series of 3 quarts. But if you grow a single tomatoe plant, that will last you 5 grow seasons. So $6-8 per large tomato plant over a many month long growing season.

Really, when it comes down to it, hydro just costs more to startup but over time it's about the same as growing with soil in a container.

If you make your own dry nutrients then you will actually save money vs. soil growing.


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RE: Is it economies of scale?

All of my planning pointed to the fact that I could not economically grow anything requiring a flowering or fruiting stage (indoors) because the cost of lights and energy to power them were prohibitive.

Attempting a "frugal hydroponics" setup, I ended up with greens and herbs as the primary while mnini9mizing costs with many cheap, and dual use items (totes, shop lights etc.). I do shop and spend at hydro stores, but only for the more specific items not as easily found elsewhere such as net pots, ratchet hangers, nutrients, and pH items.

HID systems and their related costs have kept me from growing tomatoes or peppers for now...but I am still working on creating additional efficiency's to allow me to proceed.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Indoor Gardening Adventure


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RE: Is it economies of scale?

If you want to grow plants hydroponically on the cheap you can not grow them indoors. Grow them outside or in a greenhouse and let the sun engergize the plants for you.
As for nutrients, you need to invest a little time in finding bulk sources of basic nutrient components and find the combinations of them to grow what you want. My fertilizers run like $70 and I haven't even made a dent in them in 3 or 4 years. I'm sure if I make the garden larger, I will but it'll still be cheaper the buying it in liquid form.
If you're really concerned about electricity, run an ebb n flo system that fill really quickly but drains really slowly. This will limit the amount of time you run your pump to once or twice a day. If that's still too much money, simply flood it with muscle and let gravity empty it out.
The saving of not bending or weeding or prepping a soil garden far out way the additional cost of building a couple of EnF trays and the associated plumbing.


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RE: Is it economies of scale?

If you want to grow plants hydroponically on the cheap you can not grow them indoors. Grow them outside or in a greenhouse and let the sun energize the plants for you.

That's a good point, and that's what I'm trying to do. Energy is expensive if you have to pay for it. The sun is free light and free heat during the day. I have a wood-burning furnace for nearly free heat at night.

It's still hard to justify high initial costs of a commercial system. I'm not patient enough to wait eight years to get my money back. Plus I live on a farm with good soil, and a boring old high tunnel of tomatoes in soil will return its initial investment within 1-2 years. It's hard to compete with that. I think that's why most of the larger commercial hydro systems I've seen are located in climates where soil growing is not an option.

My hydro plan is to grow cold-weather greens in the winter and sell them next year at a local winter market that just opened. I'm halfway through building a low-budget recirculating deep water culture setup. It's 4'x8' and will hold 35-day mini lettuce at a six inch spacing. By keeping costs down, I hope to get my money back within a year and then make a $ per sq ft profit that is enough to justify the greenhouse space. I won't know until I run it for a year and then do the math. Until then it's just an experiment - and not to see if it will work, I'm confident it will or I wouldn't spend the money. The experiment is to see if I can overcome the 'economy of scale' and actually make it financially worthwhile. It is challenging, to say the least.


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RE: Is it economies of scale?

There are several really great articles put our by ag extension offices regarding the full financial aspect and feasibility of greenhouse hydroponic grows. I recommend checking out Alberta greenhouse in you search for some great info. Here is a link http://www.agriculture.alberta.ca/app21/ldcalc

Go to the "cost of production" section.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Indoor Gardening Adventure


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