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University of Minnesota Extension

Winter greenhouse enterprise analysis

Key findings 

  • An analysis of eight Upper Midwest deep winter greenhouse enterprises found they are operating profitably, and growers are seeing a positive return on investment.
  • Deep winter greenhouses cost an average of $18,583 to construct, or an average of approximately $33 per square foot of space.
  • Though start-up costs are significant, study participants realized an overall return on investment (ROI) of 7.3 percent.
  • In terms of annual expenses and returns, variable costs such as propane, seeds, and soil mix ranged from $35 to $2,148 to produce a crop, or an average of $906.
    • This translated into operating revenue of $2.52 per square foot of growing space.

About this report

Extension conducted an enterprise analysis of seven greenhouse operators in 2015, four of which also participated in this study. Those that participated in both analyses have decreased labor inputs by 30 percent. Each has also found ways to make his or her greenhouse more profitable from increasing growing space, adding wood heat, or decreasing propane costs.

Comparing the 2015 and 2018 studies, the average cost of greenhouse construction decreased while average variable costs remained much the same. These and other differences, such as an increased return on investment (ROI) between 2015 and 2018, is primarily due to sample size and which greenhouse operators participated in the studies. With results from only seven participants in 2015 and eight participants in 2018, findings are not statistically significant. They are instead observations from growers trying to make winter greenhouse production commercially profitable.

Study findings suggest success factors regarding marketing product and greenhouse costs are similar to those of the 2015 study. Prospective and current operators should consider the following recommendations: 1) explore kit construction, 2) pursue outlets to sell off production and maximize space, and 3) consider ways to lower annual operating costs.

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Author: Ryan Pesch, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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