In his latest blog, Russell Sharp, Founder of Plater Bio writes:
am often told that there is no significant market for hydroponic fertilizers in China. However, I would love to know your opinion on this. Can this really be the case?
Surely with a massive and growing urban population there will be a demand? As a bare minimum I imagine that in the cities there is a growing interest in vertical farming, green walls, and general ‘amateur’ hydroponics as a hobby. Or am I missing something that makes hydroponic completely unattractive to the Chinese market?
And if there is indeed a market, who will be the first movers to fulfill the unmet demand for hydroponic products in the major mega-cities and go against the current received wisdom of the Chinese horticultural industry?
What might in fact be the case is that when I mention ‘hydroponics’, the Chinese viewpoint is to think of large-scale production in glazed greenhouses, AKA ‘Dutch Horticulture’. This is of course the major form of hydroponics currently, and is not a realistic value proposition compared to the current methods of growing fruit and vegetables in China. However, this doesn’t have to be the only way to grow hydroponically, and very simple hydroponic systems are now available that can dramatically reduce initial capital costs and running costs. In fact, the area with perhaps the greatest potential for hydroponics in China is in allowing food production in remote locations where conventional farming is impossible (e.g. isolated villages in the Gobi Desert). At Plater Bio this interests us as the ability of our unique ‘one part’ hydroponic fertilizer Gold Leaf means that the features of hydroponics that make it expensive and complicated are not essential. Dositrons, pH/EC monitoring, multiple fertilizer regimes and complex machinery to deliver fertigation are no longer essential (but can still be used) when switching to a Gold Leaf fertilizer regime. As such, very simple production systems, like this one, could be rolled out in remote locations to improve food production and human nutrition.
One major barrier to entry for hydroponic fertilizers in China that I have so far identified are the requirements set out in the regulations governing the registration of fertilizer products. These regulations state very specific nutrient contents that a liquid fertilizer must meet in order to obtain a registration. These regulations were developed for liquid fertilizers destined for field production and the vast majority of hydroponic fertilizers sold in Europe and USA would fail the requirements. One of these requirements is a total NPK content of no less than 50%! However, there are other allowances that can be made when you look closer at the regulations, and not all hydroponic fertilizers would be excluded. Thankfully Gold Leaf falls into this later category!
I’d be interested in trialling our Gold Leaf fertilizer in low-tech hydroponic systems in China; both in urban and rural situations. Not least because there is a big demand for calcicole crops (Pak Choi, Cabbage etc) in China which need good calcium levels to be maintained. Perhaps, we will need to work with local partners to adapt the technology for local conditions?
So let me me know if you have an opinion on hydroponics in China and if you would like to trial Gold Leaf in your hydroponic system.