How It Works
Affordable Greenhouses have the potential to revolutionize the agricultural landscape for smallholder farmers in communities around the world. Greenhouses are permanent glass or plastic-covered structures that allow farmers to grow vegetables and fruits year-round through mechanically controlled temperature and irrigation systems. To use a greenhouse, farmers simply plant their crops (as they would in an open field) under the greenhouse where the microclimate is much more favorable for plant growth. While greenhouses are not a new technology to Africa—large-scale commercial farmers use them quite frequently to boost year-round productivity—our research on materials, design concepts and construction processes in the US and several African countries have contributed to an innovative product that creates value through its low-cost and accessibility to small-scale, rural farmers.
GRO Greenhouses provide shelter from the element, and decrease the likelihood of crop failure. Greenhouses are usable year-round, provide a controlled environment, reduce water consumption, and ensure crop production despite seasonal weather changes. Being able to cultivate crops year-round guarantees greater food security and simultaneously ensures that users have a decreased risk of unemployment.
Low-Potential Land Cultivation
Greenhouses decrease water losses in plants by reducing the process of evapo-transpiration. The water use per unit yield can also be lowered through the usage of a drip irrigation system inside the greenhouse. This water reduction allows the user to expand their area of cultivable land from the high- and mid-potential zones to those that were previously deemed unsuitable. Farmers are then enabled to expand to regions that are thought to have low potential for cultivation.
Affordable, Durable, Expandable
GRO Greenhouses offers a design that is affordable and can be constructed on a small area of land, making it ideal for smallholder farmers. Our greenhouse structure has a lifespan of approximately ten years, while the plastic glazing is quoted to last five years, making it durable. Our customers also have the opportunity to expand on their greenhouse in order to expand their production and profits.
Seed → Harvest
Most of our farmers use our greenhouses for the entire agricultural process. Farmers will plant seeds, nurture seedlings, maintain plants, and harvest mature crops all in the greenhouse. We suggest optimal plant spacing for higher crop yields since space inside the greenhouse is limited and have coordinators for agronomic support in case any problems should occur. After harvest, our coordinators advise farmers on market linkages to increase their profits.
Seed → Transplant
Some of our farmers have begun to grow seedlings in our greenhouses. When growing seedlings, seeds can be placed much closer together so a higher number of seedlings can be grown than if the plant were meant to reach maturity. Seedlings are easier to cultivate in the greenhouse because the germination rate is higher, which helps reduce risks associated with farming. These farmers then transplant the seedlings from inside the greenhouse to open-air plots where they continue growing until harvest.
Seed → Seedling
Much like the Seed to Transplant farmers, farmers who practice Seed to Seedling also grow seedlings in our greenhouses. Since the seedlings mitigate a lot of the risk of farming in open-air plots where seeds are more likely to not germinate or seedlings may be damaged by the elements, other farmers who do not have access or the ability to purchase our greenhouses are interested in buying these already successful seedlings. Seed to Seedling farmers grow seedlings in their greenhouses and then sell them to other farmers, where the seedlings are planted in open-air plots till maturity.