Hort Americas attends Greenhouse Vegetable Hydroponic Workshop at U of F

William Fry, Hort Americas
customer service representative

University of Florida IFAS Extension held a Starting a Successful Hydroponic Business workshop in Live Oak, Fla., on Jan. 6-7. The two-day workshop will be repeated in March. William Fry, customer service representative at Hort Americas, attended the event and provides some insight about the audience and topics covered.

Who attended and what were they looking to learn about?
The people who attended the hydroponic workshop were there for a variety of reasons. The predominant reason I heard was a need to bring in new income to their existing business. Attendees included cut flower growers looking to restart their businesses, berry growers and people passionate about gardening who wanted to take it to the next level. There were also some people who are currently involved in hydroponics either as growers or as some type of product developer.

What were some of the topics covered in the workshop?
The basics about what hydroponics is and how it is done were covered first. The attendees learned about various aspects of propagation including how to select the proper growing medium for different applications. Other topics included irrigation systems and the importance of water quality. Multi-county extension agent Bob Hochmuth demonstrated several ways that drip irrigation systems can fail to operate properly and how to correct the problems including choosing the right emitters for specific applications. The first day ended with dinner and a discussion about how to successfully market a business.

The second day was spent learning about integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, scouting crops and nutrient management. Classes were conducted at Vertical Horizon Farm in Hobe Sound, Fla. Co-owner Kevin Osburn demonstrated the step-by-step process of how he prepares fertilizers. He explained how to mix fertilizer recipes in different tanks and how to use injectors to deliver nutrient solutions to crops. The class was a very hands-on learning experience, which was not only fun but also very practical.

What did you learn about hydroponics?
There seems to be quite a bit of interest in hydroponics with current growers looking to take their businesses in a new direction. Many of the workshop attendees look at hydroponics as the wave of the future for crop production. The workshop was geared to Florida growers and their specific circumstances. Staff members at the University of Florida extension office in Live Oak seem to be in tune with the needs of state growers and are working diligently with them to achieve success. For more information: University of Florida IFAS Extension, Suwannee County Extension, Live Oak, Fla.; (386) 362-1725.

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