Guillermo Maldonado
Photos courtesy of Berger

To buy or to make your own mix? That is the question. Below, Berger senior grower advisor Guillermo Maldonado offers his insight into the topic.

Greenhouse Management: What is the main reason why growers want to make their own mix?

Guillermo Maldonado: Growers have always been very good at optimizing their production to keep decent margins despite the increasing expenses for transportation, labor, equipment, chemicals and many more, including growing media. When looking at ways to cut down your production costs, producing your own growing media may seem attractive, especially for large-scale growers. Although some initial investment is required, the return on investment can indeed be very appealing. However, it is important to carefully evaluate all the implications as many intangible elements can be overlooked leading to unforeseen additional costs.

GM: Does mixing your own growing media have an impact on quality?

GM: Mixing your own ingredients to produce growing media certainly seems like a simple operation but manufacturing large volumes of consistently high-quality substrate is much more complex. Most ingredients used to manufacture substrates are natural and their characteristics inherently vary. A good substrate manufacturer has an extensive quality system and the ability to adjust during production to ensure the overall consistency of the growing media. When you produce growing media for only a few weeks in the year, it is more difficult to develop the same expertise and productivity.

GM: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a purchased mix and in-house mix?

GM: One of the advantages of making your own mix in-house is the flexibility to adjust your substrate to meet the needs of the crop. It can also be an opportunity for savings when it is done correctly, but it is important to consider all overhead expenses, or you could end up with unpleasant surprises. To manufacture a quality product, you need quality ingredients and making accurate measurements when simultaneously blending multiple ingredients isn’t an easy task. If the product doesn’t perform properly, additional chemicals or labor may be required to correct the issue. A small decrease in the percentage of sellable plants can rapidly eat up any money you saved by making your own mix. Buying growing media gives peace of mind and eliminates at least one of the many sources of stress that a grower faces. A good growing media manufacturer also offers technical support and analytical services to assist growers throughout their production.

GM: What can help growers make the right decision?

GM: Take the time to run some scenarios and make your calculations. If you’re not sure where to start, contact your local Berger sales representative, who has access to tools to calculate the actual cost of making your own mix. With reliable numbers in front of you, it may be easier to decide whether the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks. Whether it supplies you with a ready-to-use growing media or the ingredients you need to make your own, Berger is your partner and is always ready to help ensure you have success.