Growing Evening Primrose Hydroponically
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Patrick Omoe
Posted on: June 02, 2006

I am anxious to set up a commercial hydroponics operations. Yes, I know... hydroponic operations are very light and heat intensive activities. However, living next to several mills which are prepared to literally give away all their bio-mass, I have an ample source of energy. I have researched the benefits of small scale gasification and can quickly convert the biomass into a considerable amount of electricity.

If you were to set up a commercial hydroponics operations, what would your choose as your cash-crop and why. Any thoughts on growing Evening Primrose hydroponically? It is not my intent to set-up a ‘Mom and Pops’ Tomato stand.

Any further reading recommendations on Evening Primrose and hydroponics would be welcomed.

It is a tremendous advantage to have the energy source that you have available to you. In spite of this advantage I do not recommend evening primrose for a hydroponic greenhouse operation. Energy certainly is a major cost of running a greenhouse operation in Canada, but it is rarely the biggest one -- labour, for one, is usually a more important one.

Evening primrose is a seed crop. The seeds yield an oil with high concentrations of gamma-linolenic acid, one of the essential fatty acids humans need for good health. Normally it is grown in fields using modern farm equipment such as plows, seeders, combine harvesters, etc. The labour per tonne of seed is reduced to a minimum this way. It is hard to imagine how you will compete against the field-grown product.

Inherent in the evening primrose crop is the ability to dry it, store it, and transport it long distances. This means that you will be competing against the whole world. With your small scale, lack of cheap mechanization (as farm equipment can be thought of), and higher input and capital costs, you will already be at a large disadvantage before your first seeds germinate.

I have written about the need to find crops that do not transport well. The most successful herb crop for hydroponic operations is fresh-cut basil. With this herb, among all of the popular, in-demand fresh herbs, there are serious quality issues when it is transported long distances and when it is handled poorly or stored improperly as most imported basil is. Other fresh herbs to consider are french tarragon, chives, rosemary, chervil, and others.

Medicinal herbs can be grown hydroponically in greenhouses. However the high cost of running a hydroponic operation (even if the heat is free) is the main barrier to success unless there are overriding quality issues that are best addressed by greenhouse cultivation. Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza at the Alberta government’s Crop Diversification Centre North has been doing research on commercial hydroponics medicinal herbs production.

For more information about commercial hydroponics medicinal herbs production, please see:

http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Commercial/20051126-2.html

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