Controlled Environment Agriculture

Marketing

In the Spring of 2003, a Cornell Agriculture Economics student, along with a professor from Ag Economics and Horticulture wrote a 'white paper' called:Insights into the economic viability of a new CEA system producing hydroponic lettuce. It looked at the production of Boston (aka buttercrunch lettuce) in nine locations throughout the country including:Chicago, Denver, Ithaca, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Raleigh, Seattle, and St. Louis

Insights into the economic viability of a new CEA system producing hydroponic lettuce

Gunes Ilaslan, Gerald B. White, & Robert W. Langhans

Abstract

A new CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) system growing Boston
lettuce, Lactuca Sativa cv. 'Vivaldi', achieves the same quality and quantity of production
every day of the year. The year-round constant quantity and quality production indicate
potential for success. However, our research showed that out of nine selected U.S.
locations with different climatic and economic conditions, the Northeast had 25.7 percent
higher production costs for the same yield.

The analysis indicated that given current prices and costs, CEA hydroponic
lettuce production in northern climates such as Ithaca in upstate New York and Chicago
is marginal to negative in terms of economic viability. As a result, the question arises
about the future viability of CEA in areas such as upstate New York and New England
where electricity costs are high and the climate is relatively cold. Many such areas are
struggling with the future viability of agriculture. Thus, this study provides alternative
ways to increase the economic viability of this new technology in the Northeast. The
importance of local production, state level promotion programs and other potential
incentives, and metro farm alternatives are examined. The analysis is applicable to other
agricultural products produced in the Northeast at higher cost than in other locations in
the southern and western United States.

Download Insights into the economic viability of a new CEA system producing hydroponic lettuce(pdf)