Growing hydroponic vegetables can produce the same freshness year-round as it would during peak harvest season. Instead of being limited to selling at farmer’s markets during the summer months, hydroponic gardeners can sell their goods anytime during the year. Many hydroponic gardeners develop quick relationships with their customers, who regularly come back.
Specialty grocery stores also love hydroponic produce and will buy in bulk from the right grower. Hydroponic microgreens are popular with local restaurant chefs who add them to their signature dishes, adding pizzazz to their menu.
A small Hydroponic Farm called Endless Summer Gardens is an excellent example of what a small Hydroponic farm looks like and the opportunities available in this industry. Global leaders worldwide visit their hydroponic setup with the hope of learning how to create a similar hydroponic design when outdoor conditions are not favorable.
One feature that draws in visitors to Endless Summer Gardens is their unique gutter system in their greenhouse, which creates a sustainable farming system using recycled water 90% of the time. Check out their hydroponic grow operation in the video below:
Hydroponic Customers are Loyal
It all boils down to the freshness and taste- hydroponic vegetables are fresher, cleaner, and crisper. Hydroponic produce is also free of dirt and pests, something soil-grown veggies inevitably carry. Another reason that draws customers to buy hydroponic produce is using a sustainable farming system.
We will break down the most profitable hydroponic vegetables, including microgreens, spinach, lettuce, radishes, herbs, flowers, bell peppers. Besides selling hydroponic produce, we’ll discuss other profitable ways to make money with hydroponics.
Quick disclaimer: we will cover plants that could be sold at a farmer’s markets and not marijuana or other substances, though we don’t judge.
6 Profitable Hydroponic Plants
Microgreens are a very affordable hydroponic crop to grow because they don’t need high-intensity lighting. Instead, you can easily grow microgreens using fluorescent lights. Harvest time takes up to two weeks, and it’s at this time you use a pair of garden scissors to cut your microgreens. Selling microgreens can bring in $20-$30 per pound.
Upscale grocers and restaurant chefs make great repeat customers. Microgreens are highly sought after because they contain a high nutrient content, drawing holistic doctors and natural-minded folks to add them to their healthy diets.
90% of Americans consume lettuce in a given week, making this a no-brainer crop to add to your hydroponic garden. Hydroponic lettuce is grown with premium freshness year-round, making it not only crisp but delicious too. Bibb lettuce is a gourmet item in restaurants, with many chefs seeking high-quality hydroponic lettuce for their signature salads.
Compared to iceberg lettuce which is around $1 per pound, hydroponic Bibb lettuce commands upwards of $3 for a small head of lettuce. Within a month, with a small hydroponic system set up, upwards to 20 heads of lettuce can be harvested. Lettuce is the most economical crop to produce hydroponically, as it has the lowest operational cost.
Radishes are economical for hydroponic growers to grow, as seeds germinate at a rate of 80%. Radishes are great because not only can buyers use the radish, the leaves make excellent additions to salads and pesto. The leaves of radishes are also high in vitamin C, making them ideal for adding to a healthy diet.
Hydroponic radishes can sell from anywhere between $2-$4.50 per pound, and after 20-60 days, radishes are ready to harvest and sell for profit. Radishes must be harvested immediately when ready, or they risk cracking and becoming hollow, leaving a bitter taste instead of its sharp, sweet deliciousness.
4. Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers are another vegetable to add to your profitable hydroponic grow list. Growing peppers hydroponically is more efficient and economical than growing in soil. While growers typically have to wait until June to grow bell peppers outside in soil, hydroponic bell peppers can be grown year-round and have fewer pests to deal with than their soil-grown counterparts. Hydroponic bell peppers range between $1.25-$2.50 a pound.
Color seems to influence customer’s decision-making significantly, with red peppers outselling green. Red peppers are more time-intensive than green peppers to grow. All peppers start as green, but red peppers start to turn red later in the growing season, typically after picking green peppers. Maturity for sweet peppers ranges from 50-80 days.
Herbs add an abundance of flavor to any meal, making them highly sought after by everyday cooks and high-end restaurant chefs. Cilantro costs around $6 a pound and is ready to harvest within four weeks. Basil comes in around $12 a pound, and is used in various dishes, from pestos to salad, and boasts many health benefits. Hydroponic bay leaves are typically $30 a pound.
Other great herbs that provide a big bang for your buck with minimal effort include tarragon, chives, mint, and dill. The most expensive herb to grow is ginseng, which sells for $500-$600 a pound. Ginseng is a root vegetable, similar to ginger, which makes it slightly more intricate to grow hydroponically due to its rootiness. Once you develop a system for growing ginseng hydroponically, the profitability is endless.
Farmer’s Market attendees are not the only ones who love to buy flowers. Florists, small grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels always look for beautiful year-round flowers. Some easy and appealing flowers to grow hydroponically include zinnias, peonies, sunflowers, scabiosa, larkspur, and salvias. Sunflowers are known to go anywhere between $2-$4 a stem, and early bloom varieties make sunflowers ready to sell in under two months.
Flowers do not require an elaborate lighting system and easily grow with simple fluorescent or LED grow lights. Once you get the hang of growing flowers hydroponically, you can try more expensive and specialty varieties like orchids and types that are hard to grow outdoors, such as gerbera daisies, carnations, and snapdragons.
Become a Local Hydroponics Guru
No matter how big or small your hydroponic setup, once you can grow a few crops and get the kinks of your system worked out, you’ve officially become a local expert of hydroponics in your area. Consider teaching a class about hydroponics at your local library or holding an online webinar due to covid.
If you have a class of 30 people at $20 each, you’re $500 richer after a one-hour class. Knowledge is power, and many people will pay to learn from someone who has hands-on experience.
Get Handy with Hydroponic Systems
Maybe you aren’t interested in selling your produce or teaching, but if you can build your hydroponic system, you can make it for someone else too, and at a decent rate. Building a DIY Hydroponic system takes a specific skill set that only someone who has done before can do well.
Market yourself on NextDoor, Facebook, and local social media groups, or ask friends to spread by word of mouth that you are now available to build hydroponic systems. Growing hydroponic food at home is a great way to start, and if you don’t want to build anything from scratch you can always get an Aerogarden to see how you like hydroponics.
How Much Does it Cost to Grow Hydroponic Vegetables?
The great thing is that hydroponic systems profit 60% of the time, so the odds of making money are undoubtedly on your side. Costs for systems, nutrient solution, seeds, and supplies vary widely based on simplicity or complexity.
You can make a simple hydroponic set up for $100 or an elaborate, extensive system for thousands of dollars. The most significant expense in hydroponic gardening is labor, but work certainly doesn’t feel like work when you do something you love.
I Only Have Time and Space to Grow One Crop. Which One Makes the Most Money?
Besides ginseng, which we mentioned garners anywhere from $500-$600 a pound due to its health benefits, leafy greens like lettuce are the most profitable to grow hydroponically. This is due to the cost of the low operation- one square foot of lettuce costs from anywhere between $15-$20 to maintain. Microgreens come in at a close second due to their demand not only in the restaurant industry but the health industry, too.
How Much Does a Hydroponic Grower Make Annually?
With experience always comes a salary increase. For the beginner hydroponic grower, salaries range from $20,000-$26,000 annually. Experienced hydroponic growers have an average salary of $30,846. If you’re doing this as a side hustle, that’s a pretty decent amount to bring in doing something you love!