Our Best Practices
Our research group began work with commercial vegetable production in the early 1990's. We started with lettuce as our model crop thinking that we would move on to more complicated crops quickly. As with many things in life, the more research we conducted, the more we realized the complexity of the entire growing system. By the late 1990's we felt like we finally conquered a hydroponic lettuce system that was worthy of a small commercial scale demonstration greenhouse. That ~1/5 acre facility was completed in 1999. Over the next dozen years we learned about additional considerations including pest management, marketing, and the optimization of multiple leafy green crops in a single structure.
Modified Environment Agriculture
Most of our research and the development of our commercial production guidelines has been performed in a 'high-tech' greenhouse with the ability to carefully control environmental conditions to optimize plant growth. A lower-tech but more inexpensive way to produce plants out of season is to use some sort of covering over the plants (this can be anything from a fabric row cover to plastic covering a wooden or metal structure). The latter type of structure - often called a high tunnel and are, by definition, unheated and have no electricity - is not a new invention but has regained popularity recently and many land grant institutions have performed new research inside these facilities. We have gathered many of these resources in one place for your use.
We have written a detailed production guideline, available for free on the related page, describing our hydroponic lettuce production system.
Light Integral Control
Our major contribution to the commercial vegetable greenhouse production industry has been the implementation of the concept of daily light integral - or daily light sum - that allows growers to produce a consistent amount of product every day of the year even in the seasonally dark Northeast United States. We have patented a computer algorithm that provides this daily total usable light in combination with supplemental lighting and moveable shade maximizes the use of cheaper off-peak power rates when available. The program is called LASSI (Light and Shade System Implementation) and is being used in leafy green production greenhouses in multiple states. Contact us for more information on how you can obtain LASSI for your facility.