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Creating a Master Plan for Greenhouse Operations
A. J. Both, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Controlled Environment Agriculture
You have heard the expression “Change is inevi- table”. Unfortunately, sometimes people are unhappy after a change, such as renovating an existing greenhouse, because they ended up spending as much money as they would have by building an entirely new facility, but without gain- ing the full benefits of a new facility. Creating a business master plan may help prevent such disap- pointments.
Changes in the greenhouse industry during the past decades have increased greenhouse construction and operation costs significantly. This makes it necessary to carefully plan the overall design of the facilities in order to avoid costly retrofits at a later stage. A comprehensive master plan is required that reflects how the owner/operator intends the com- pleted facility to function. A key component of the plan is the careful integration of all the systems and buildings comprising the entire greenhouse opera- tion.
For financial reasons, it is often not possible to include all the desired systems and installations in the initial construction of the facility. However, the overall plan should provide for these systems and installa- tions so that they can be added at a later date without trouble or unnecessary additional costs (e.g., from the onset, install a sufficiently large water supply line that can accommodate the planned future expansion of the greenhouse facility).
It is generally a good idea to establish priorities and not to compromise when implementing a design plan. The priorities and systems selected to be included in the first installation should always be options that provide the greatest returns. Additional systems can be added at a later date.
There are many items to consider when formulating a facility’s master plan, especially because it is part of an organizational master plan. It is generally easier to add a greenhouse than to develop an overall business goal and a plan to achieve it. Technical, horticultural, and business management skills are required for the successful operation of greenhouse facilities. Excellence in only one area cannot guar- antee overall business success.
The Business Plan
A business plan is an important part of an overall master plan. Expansion or improvement of facilities always implies added costs and the expansion must be considered with the profitability and overall orga- nizational plan in mind.
A business plan usually contains several components including plans addressing human resources (labor), marketing, production, and finances. The following list may serve as a guideline for developing a suc- cessful business plan. Developing a business plan is an iterative process that may have to be repeated on an annual basis to adjust for unforeseen circumstances.
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