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North FL Research & Education Center- Suwannee Valley

North FL Research & Education Center- Suwannee Valley

Small Farms Academy

Hydroponic & Protected Ag Series

Our core program in the Hydroponic & Protected Ag Series is the short course, called “Starting a Successful Hydroponic Business”.  It is a two day program offered in march since 2009. It features demonstrations and discussions of a variety of topics inside three greenhouses, a shade house, an outdoor production area and two tunnel structures at the NFREC-SV facility.  Topics covered include: planning the business and developing a marketing strategy, growing transplants, selecting hydroponic systems, soilless media choices, irrigation and fertilizer, managing pests, and the production of several traditional and non-traditional crops, including microgreens, herbs, flowers, and vegetables.

The short course is being offered in response to the tremendous increase in demand for information on hydroponics and controlled growing systems to provide high quality locally grown products.  It is aimed at those considering the venture or who have recently started a hydroponic business.  

The facility is one of the best in the Southeast for teaching hydroponic growing in an actual operating greenhouse setting.  It also includes an optional tour to one of the most successful and modern greenhouse hydroponic operations in Florida.

This program has also been modified to accommodate and target specific audiences such as Teachers and Educators.

Other programs within the Hydroponic & Protected Ag Series are the following:

  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Irrigation / Nutrient Management

    Programs provided under this category are: Hydroponic Vegetable Nutrient Management & Irrigation System Design. Some of the topics and hands-on lab sessions in these programs have included:

    Bob explaining fert tubs at greenhouse

    • Know Your Well
    • Backflow Prevention Requirements
    • System Design Considerations
    • Proper Emitter Selection
    • Water Quality and Media Selections
    • How to Mix Your Own Fertilizer
    • Monitoring and Adjusting Nutrient Solutions
  • Marketing / Business

    Programs provided under this category are: Greenhouse Economics, Economics of Hydroponic Vegetable Production, Marketing Techniques & Mind Your Business: Hydroponics for Profit. Topics included in these program are:

    Kevin presenting at Greenhouse
    • Building Hydroponic Crop Budgets
    • Budgets for Planning and Decision Making
    • Estimating Profitability of Crop Systems
    • Assess and Manage Risks
    • Assessing your Farm's Food Safety Policies
    • Direct Marketing for the Hydroponic Grower
  • Microgreens 101
    Attendees harvesting microgreens

    A hands-on workshop for the prospective commercial grower. Activities included in this program are:

    • Crop selection, Scheduling and Seeding
    • Maintenance and Care
    • Harvesting Techniques
    • Post-harvest Handling Safety
    • Marketing and Sales of the Final Product
  • Shade Program

    First presented in 2012, this program has attracted many farmers and homeowners interested in learning about using open shade structures to extend their vegetable Wanda teaching at Shade Programproduction season. Topics covered within this program include:

    • Hydroponic Systems for Summer Growing
    • Shade Technologies
    • Selecting Appropriate Cultivars for Shade Production
    • Water and Nutrient Management
    • Business and Marketing Strategies
  • Transplants

    Attendees removing second seedling at Transplant program

    Activities in this program include:

    • Seed, Tray and Media selection
    • Scheduling
    • Seeding Methods and tips
    • Maintenance and care
    • Hardening
    • Transplanting

AG Assistant

Protected AG Program

Wanda Laughlin

Phone: 386-219-4260

RSA- Vegetables

Field & Greenhouse

Robert (Bob) Hochmuth

Phone: 386-219-4255