Although many enthusiasts garden hydroponically for the fun of it, there is definitely some money to be made if you are interested in a side business. You’re probably already growing some of these profitable hydroponic crops, which will make it even easier for you to turn your hobby into a part-time income, or more!
Once you get the hang of hydroponic gardening and have established your water-logged green thumb status, you can think about taking your show on the road and cultivating some cash along with your crops.
If considering gardening for money, first do a market analysis of the region in which you live. In traditional gardens, much of the cost of the fruit or vegetable is due to the cost of carrying it across the country.
If you can grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables indoors, and don’t have to worry about the growing season, you will be able to sell produce locally that is normally not in season.
By analyzing the needs of the nearby market, you will be able to judge the best fruits, herbs, and vegetables to grow in order to make some money. There are business licenses, and things of that nature, but this isn’t that kinda website. We’re going to focus on what to grow!
The Most Profitable Hydroponic Crops
No matter where you live, the crops below make the list for ease of growing vs. profitability margin, and they are a great place to start your business.
Why are lettuce and other leafy greens so profitable? Two reasons: they are extremely easy to grow and the cost to grow them is very low.
Growing lettuce is very easy because the seeds germinate quickly and the plant takes off. You can harvest in 3-4 weeks, and by constantly turning over the crop, you can sell fresh lettuce year-round. If you decide to sell lettuce, especially loose-leaf varieties like buttercrunch, consider packaging it as living lettuce with roots intact to keep the leaves healthy longer.
With such a low cost to grow, and the ability to get a higher price since your lettuce is grown without pesticides and dirt that gets stuck in the leaves, lettuce is the perfect cash crop, especially for new hydroponic gardeners. Other leafy greens such as spinach or swiss chard would also fit into this category.
Microgreens are a hip new topic in the culinary world, and as such, cost a pretty penny. Chefs are willing to pay upwards of $25-50/lb for fresh microgreens, depending on your location and local demand.
In addition to being expensive, microgreens are also insanely easy to grow. Microgreens are valuable to chefs because they are filled with flavor and nutrients, more so than their regular-sized counterparts.
Chefs use them as a pop of flavor and color on top of a variety of dishes. Because microgreens are harvested as immature plants, just as the leaves begin to unfurl, they are also very quick to grow. You can harvest radish microgreens in as little as 5 days!
One great way to sell microgreens to local restaurants is by delivering trays of live plants to them. With little effort, the restaurant can keep the microgreens fresh and lively for several days. Most growers charge a refundable deposit for the tray, which is picked up when the next tray of greens is delivered.
If you’re going to be growing microgreens, check out the trays from Bootstrap Farmer. Their shallow height is specifically made for micros, and they are way tougher than your average tray.
If you can set up a relationship with a local restaurant, grow fresh microgreens year-round and make a staggering profit.
Popular and easy to grow microgreens include; swiss chard, celery, arugula, radish, pea shoots, chervil, and basil.
Herbs are expensive because they are so fragile, and because they are fussy about the climate in which they grow.
Market your herbs to local restaurants or personal chefs, and you can make some serious cash with a little bit of effort. As recommended for microgreens, deliver fresh herbs to restaurants in trays, with the roots still intact. Live herbs will stay fresher longer, and in turn deliver more value to both you and the restaurant. Don’t forget to pick up the used trays when you deliver fresh ones!
The 5×5 trays by Bootstrap Farmer are a great choice for growing small sets of greens or herbs that are delivered to restaurants. One really good thing about them is that 8 5×5 trays fit perfectly in a 1020 flat which makes it easy to bottom water plants.
- Basil: Set yourself up with an Italian restaurant and you will have one very happy wallet.
Basil grows fast and is a very healthy plant, and should be easy to sell. Basil bruises very easily, which releases its aroma and reduces the flavor produced by the leaves. The best way to sell basil is as an entire live plant.
- Cilantro: Although some growers say cilantro is not the most profitable herb to grow, if you do your market research, you could make some money with this.
Since cilantro is so delicate, chefs would want to buy it from a local grower, and if the leafy green herb is easy for you to grow in the system you have, then you are in luck
- Mint: Another fragile herb with so many uses, mint is even easier to grow than cilantro, and sought after by many in the restaurant business.
It grows prolifically in hydroponic gardens, and you will have more than enough on your hands in no time. The biggest problem you will have with mint is getting it to stay where you put it since it loves to spread out.
Daisies are an easy hydroponic flower to grow and can be profitable to sell to local florists or grocery stores.
Depending on the time of year and the climate in which you live and garden, selling a variety of gerbera daisies will be a good way to make money.
Daisies grow faster in water with special nutrients than they do in soil, so you can also grow more throughout the year. Additionally, they are not susceptible to outdoor bugs or pests, making them easier to grow to maturity.
These flowers grow easily in individual pots in your hydroponic system, and who wouldn’t want fresh flowers to fill their home and sell to others?
In case you haven’t noticed, hydroponic strawberries are drawing crazy prices right now. This trend toward hydroponic berries is an excellent opportunity to make some money. One drawback is that strawberries take longer to develop than the other plants listed in this article, but once established they are prolific producers.
One reason strawberries are so profitable is that they grow well in a vertical system. This means that you can stack many sets of plants vertically, and save the space in your home to spread out other plants.
If you live in a cold climate during the winter, you can break the bank buying fresh strawberries. But growing them hydroponically in their own little pots of nutrient-filled water is a great way to make money. Not only that, but your hydroponic garden will be more beautiful and flavorful because of them!
Time to Grow
Although many people start hydroponic gardening for fun and to have a personal stash of fresh vegetables year-round, there are many profitable hydroponic crops that can help fund your love of gardening.
You will need to research and see what vegetables are most marketable in your area, but if you already know how to garden hydroponically, this is a fairly easy way to make money.
Beyond market research, you’ll want to research the most effective ways to grow and produce the cash crop of your choice. For instance, microgreens can easily be produced in shelf systems with fluorescent lights that can be placed close to the growing surface without harming the plants. A 2ft x 4ft shelving system with 5 shelves can produce around 20 full-size flats of microgreens per week.
Even if you can’t find a restaurant to strike up a deal with, check out the offerings at local farmer’s markets. Figure out what’s in short supply, and start supplying it! Small flats or bowls of microgreens and starter herbs sell great at those places.
Download the First Grow Cheat Sheet for step-by-step instructions, DIY templates, and shopping lists that will take your first grow to the next level!