Growers join in effort to make a splash in hydroponics industry

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SALEM, Ohio – Amid nutrient-packed water, hydroponic vegetable growers are strategizing.

The plan is for Ohio and Michigan hydroponic growers to join forces and form Great Lakes Hydroponic Association and Marketing Cooperative – the only association of its kind in the Midwest.

As separate identities, the association will promote hydroponics and the cooperative will reach out to bigger markets.

Details discussion. Head strategist Mary Donnell, an Ohio State extension agent, hopes the association is running by the end of the month and the cooperative is formally established later this spring.

In an effort to get the word out, Donnell will review the details of the plan at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress Jan. 16, 9:30-10 a.m., at the Toledo SeaGate Centre in Toledo.

“It’s all based on trying to increase profitability of hydroponic growers and opening more markets and making [growers] more successful,” Donnell said.

Hydroponic farmers grow vegetables in a soilless greenhouse environment where the plants depend on nutrients from water for growth. It is most popular with small farmers who grow tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and herbs.

Under water. For grower Jay Caslow, no ordinary farm would do – not dairy, not grain and not livestock. He wanted to teach his four children about agriculture and business without going into the debt.

After years of study, he settled on hydroponics and he and his father-in-law soon went into business.

Despite their success as Ohio Healthy Harvest of Galena, Ohio, they wanted a bigger chunk of the market, which isn’t possible at their business’ size. So instead of going at it alone, they plan to join other growers through the cooperative and, hopefully, open doors to larger markets.

Study group. The idea isn’t anything new. Many producers, including Caslow, have been meeting in a so-called study group for two years.

Together, these growers discuss and solve problems related to hydroponics and share their experiences.

Only recently did they decide to make their group a formal association and add a cooperative to their ventures.

More information. There will be a fee to join the association, although Donnell said the price has not been determined.

For more information contact Donnell at 419-354-6916 or donnell.8@osu.edu.

(You can contact Kristy Hebert at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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