Medicinal Plants Greenhouse in Venezuela
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Oscar Antonio Gutiérrez Landa
Posted on: April 11, 2001

My name is Oscar Gutiérrez, live in Venezuela, South América, and am interested in beginning a medicinal and ornamental plant greenhouse in a low mountains region in central region of my country.

I wonder if you kindly could send me some information about technology, species, processing, marketing, construction, etc; from your own experience.

This is a very broad question that cannot be answered in detail in this forum. However, I can tell you that there are a great number of ways in which herbs can be part of a successful commercial greenhouse operation.

There is no question that you can grow many herbs successfully in greenhouses. The more important questions are can you grow them for a profit and can you find a market for them? The answers are yes for many, but it will take research and experimentation to find the best combination of herbs.

An important consideration is what market are you interested in. If you are thinking about the pharmaceutical industry, you will have to develop contacts within that industry, and that is not easy for new growers. But if you are willing to grow to the exacting specifications of the pharmaceutical industry, that market can be very lucrative. We have heard of hydroponic greenhouse operations growing herbs such as the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus, syn. Vinca rosea) in the Caribbean, as an example.

In general, growing dried herbs for the bulk medicinal herbs market in greenhouses is not competitive because of capital and labour costs, compared to growing the same herbs in the field. However, in cases where there are concerns about field-grown herbs, say, for example, inconsistent chemical constituents or high bacterial loads, there can be an economic argument for a greenhouse-grown product that is grown under controlled, sanitary conditions of a greenhouse. By this depends very much on the herb and the specific market requirements for that herb.

There is no book that covers greenhouse growing of medicinal herbs specifically. If you are starting from the very beginning, you will need to learn about greenhouse technology. Ball Publishing in Chicago, United States, has excellent textbooks on all aspects of general greenhouse management and technology. Many of the technologies used in the horticulture industry can be applied to the greenhouse herb industry.

Some additional information that you may find useful can be found in the following books, all available from Richters:

* "Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs"

* "Starting a Nursery of Herb Farm"

* "Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field & Marketplace"

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