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Hoophouse Bed Layout

 

Increase profitability by maximizing square feet in production

Written by Laura Haselhuhn

Hoophouse with beds going width-wise.

 Hoophouse space is prime real estate on the farm.  It comes at a price.  I’ve seen farmers with hoophouse space from $0.99 per square foot of production space all the way up to $35.00 per square foot of production space (for a specially designed radiant heated structure).  This cost/sq ft is calculated by taking the cost of the structure divided by the total square feet in production (i.e. space devoted to production and not aisle-ways/walkways, space on endwalls).

Why do you count just the square feet in production and not the aisle space in calculating cost/square foot?

Most farmers don’t build hoophouse so they can have aisles and walkways, they build their hoophouses to have space to grow crops and make money.  The aisles and walkways aren’t making the money, so the cost should not be attributed to them. 

Hoophouse with aisle going down the middle and out to the edges, many small beds for replicated trials.  A great bed layout for research but not for a commercial farm.

Typical cost per square foot of production space

As you can see from above, there is quite a span in the cost for hoophouse space.  Most farmers with hoophouses may find that their cost per square foot is around $4.00-$6.00 per square foot of production space-more or less depending on the type of structure.  It all depends on the features that the hoophouses have.  Homemade or DIY hoophouses may run much lower than this, (mine was $0.98 per square foot, although I used mostly supplies on hand, volunteer help and discounted remnant plastic).

 

An easy change to increase profitability

The cost in hoophouse structure per square foot of usable space illustrates the importance of making the most out of the covered space.  It doesn’t make sense to cover the space if it is not going to be used effectively and efficiently.  

If you are hoping to increase profitability in your current hoophouse, take a closer look at how you are using the covered space.  You may find that by making a simple change to a different size bed, aisle size, or decreasing space on the ends you can increase growing space and profit potential.

 

Bed Width

Most farmers have 3’-4’ beds and walkways to reach them, and space on each end of the hoophouse.  Some farmers use 3’ beds in the winter time as they are growing salad mix and it’s easier to harvest out of a 3’ bed.  Then in the summer time they transition to a 4’ wide bed to fit an additional row in the bed of certain crops such as tomato.  Other farmers choose a bed width and stick to it year round.  The important part about choosing an optimal bed width is to make sure you will be able to reach into the bed to harvest/weed.

Pictured above is a 30" bed, used at the Student Farm to enable ease of access for the many volunteers, workers and students who work in the hoophouses.  On a commercial farm a larger bed 36"-60" makes better use of space.

 

Planning bed layout in the hoophouse

 

As a good first step you could take a look at the Bed Layout Options Cheat Sheet available under the Resources tab.  The cheat sheet shows four commonly used bed layout options for a 30’ x 96’ hoophouse.  For each option it details: bed sizes are, how many beds will fit and most importantly, the percentage square footage in production.  

The cheat sheet also illustrates that for 3’ wide beds, it doesn’t matter which way they are run (the short way or the long way down the house), you will still have the same percentage square feet in production.

 

It’s worth it to crunch the numbers

If your hoophouse is not 30’x96’ you can at least use the sheet for some ideas.  To make the most out of your bed space, simply sit down with a few sheets of paper, pen and calculator.   Draw your hoophouse and some bed layout options.  Crunch the numbers to see which bed layout will work best for your farm and provide the greatest percentage square feet in production. 

It will take a few minutes of your time to calculate the optimal layout of your hoophouse, but for just a few minutes you could drastically improve your hoophouse’s efficiency, production and profit potential.

 

Thanks and Happy Hoophouse Farming!

 

Laura Haselhuhn

Hoophouse Outreach Assistant

Michigan State University

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