One of the important questions almost every new Hydroponics grower want a clarity is to grow Outdoor or Indoor. It may have a clear answer if we are looking to grow in western countries with extreme cold and short day winters, or middle-east dessert with 45 plus degree around May-Sep. But, India has milder weather and moreover, cost economics play a very important role in the business decision; hence this question has huge relevance.
There are pros and cons of both locations and once the difference is clear under different criteria, user may take the right decision. Lets begin by understanding this difference by analyzing them under different criteria:
Please note that the entire analysis is done for NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Setup
Indoor can achieve a practical plant density of
around 6 times to the area in square feet. So, around 5000 sq feet area could
give a density of around 30K plants
With Flatbed (single level), its around one plant per square feet and for I-Shape or A-Shape vertical setup, its around 2.25-2.5 times the area in square feet.
Plants require a typical light intensity of around 50-150 PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) on the leaf surface. (PPFD is the most appropriate unit to measure the effectiveness of the light falling on the plant. To understand these in more details, please look into my blog PPFD Vs PPF). This demand of light is quite intense and requires very dense lighting for indoor setup. For example, for 500 plants setup, user may require around 50 T5 – 18w LED white light or around 100 meter 12w/meter high (50 PPFD) LED grow light
Sun light is enough. No need of extra light. Infact, light require to be cut in summer days through 75% shadenet.
More light, more heat, more cooling requirement. Air conditioner or water cooler is required. Typically, 90% of the power bill is due to the light and cooling. If the power meter is commercial/industrial or residential, operating running expense of indoor farm will be high due to the power bill itself. User should try for Agriculture power meter
Power bill is due to the fan motor and water pump. It is around 5 times less than the indoor farm.
Since the complete farm is sealed and insulated, chances of infection through air or water is very less. Output quality is very uniform and high.
It is more prone to catch infection compared to the indoor setup. Specially, infection through air are high probability. This setup requires more close monitoring
Ideal Plant Types
Any cash crop like Italian herbs, Chinese herbs, medicinal plants, cash crops which give better price due to off-season or off-location is the ideal choice. Cold weather crops are ideal choice in warm areas.
Crop selection will be based on the ambient conditions, as the temperature and humidity will always be dependent upon outside climate. Typically, crops which require 28-32 degree could be selected for fan and pad greenhouse during summer and rainy season and cold weather crops during winter season
Capital for shade may be less as there are multiple warehouses or ready shades available on lease. However, lights and cooling are expensive items and does require heavy capital
Greenhouse construction is costlier but overall this setup incurs, less capital than the indoor setup
It’s possible to create precise environment control through air conditioning and misting system. All kinds of Italian/Chinese herbs or cold weather plants can be grown all year long irrespective of the climate outside.
With Fan and Pad controlled greenhouse, its possible to reduce temperature by around 8-10 degree form ambient, if the weather outside is dry. With Naturally ventilated greenhouse, it’s not possible to reduce temperature. In fact, it becomes hotter than outside in the middle of summer. it’s not possible to have any kind of temperature control in outdoor setup during the winters.
Both outdoor and indoor setups have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. However, unless the requirements related to the quality of the crop, variety of the crop or timings of the crop output is demanding the indoor and controlled setup (in turns, getting high prices of the output), it’s always cheaper to go with the outdoor unit setup.