Hundreds of industries confront new challenges as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, and the greenhouse industry is no different.
We know greenhouse growers are bound to thrive through and beyond this temporary crisis. As a horticultural lighting company, we’re well aware of the adaptability and resilience required to work in cultivation in the first place. But in the meantime, the greenhouse industry will be faced with a lot of abrupt changes and unprecedented obstacles. Here are the most notable evolutions in the field.
The Change in Demand for Greenhouse Industry Products
In any widespread crisis, the first and most obvious effect on any industry is a sudden shift in demand. And for those in the greenhouse industry, demand depends on what they grow.
Growers who cultivate flowers and other plants intended for landscaping face perhaps the greatest financial challenge. The demand is waning. Many nurseries are closed or seeing very little traffic. And even as growers offer delivery services, they’re just not moving their plants at the same pace as before.
This presents an especially big loss when it comes to annuals. There is nothing to do but throw out those flowers that won’t have a life beyond this season.
The picture looks a little better for food growers in the greenhouse industry. But even they have problems of their own. While food is technically an always in-demand product, those who produce fresh fruit and vegetables are up against the increasing popularity of highly processed, shelf-stable items.
Not to mention, as smaller markets close, these growers lose many distribution opportunities. It’s for this reason that the United Fresh Start Foundation established the COVID-19 Rapid Response FRESH Grants.
As for cannabis growers, the landscape is a bit more complicated. While some retailers have had to close their doors, online orders of cannabis have seen a sudden surge. So have in-store sales in states where dispensaries are considered essential business. And the potential demand for further research into medical marijuana remains to be seen.
Shipping and Distribution Challenges
In many cases, the problems faced by the greenhouse industry are not related to customer demand. It’s the challenge of getting products from the greenhouse and into the hands of the buyers.
Many growers have lost distribution in stores that are either cutting back on stock or closing their doors entirely.
Meanwhile, the demand for truck companies has skyrocketed. As fewer people leave their homes for errands and purchases, shipping is at an all-time high. And as consumers ransack groceries stores and retailers, those businesses require constant shipments to replenish their shelves.
As a result, many growers in the greenhouse industry find themselves struggling just to send their stock out there. Fortunately, many who face shipping delays are adapting, using lower temperatures and PGR sprays to keep their crop in prime condition.
The Rise of Automation
Like most other businesses, the greenhouse industry has seen some difficult layoffs. And it isn’t just a matter of financial need.
Greenhouses with larger staffs cannot risk putting employees in close proximity to one another. In an effort to comply with social distancing standards, some growers have had to reduce the size of their team.
As a result, the greenhouse industry may start looking toward automation to maintain productivity with fewer workers.
Disruption in the Supply Chain
Many growers now struggle to find the materials they need to function at full capacity. With some suppliers closed and others short-staffed, the greenhouse industry supply chain has a few weak links.
We see this challenge especially in LED lighting and other areas that have traditionally depended on Chinese manufacturing. On the plus side, this is a great time for growers to put their support behind American-made products. California LightWorks is still up and running, producing supplemental LED greenhouse lighting right here in the U.S.
Good News for the Greenhouse Industry
While the greenhouse industry is, indeed, navigating new challenges, there are a few bright points.
Regardless of wavering demand, the truth is that growers provide an essential service. From nourishing our families to healing our bodies, the greenhouse industry cultivates products we literally cannot live without.
The need is still there. We just have to confront the challenge of adapting to an evolving business structure.
Greenhouse growers may also find relief and assistance under the new CARES Act, announced March 27th. You can explore your options at the SBA website.
Finally, we at California LightWorks want you to know we’re here for you. This may be a difficult time to be a grower, whether times or lean or you’re struggling to find the resources to meet a sudden increase in demand. But your work has never been more important.
Our factory is still up and running, and our customer support team is all here. Reach out any time.