When you decide to become a vegetable farmer, you become part of a long tradition dating back to more than 10,000 years ago, when hunter-gatherers collected vegetables from the wild to cultivate them in some of the world’s earliest human settlements and polities.
Today, vegetable farming is far more efficient and productive, thanks to science and technology, which have since played a huge role in the industrialization of the vegetable cultivation and harvesting processes.
Today, farmers rely on a wide spectrum of tools—from modern machinery, automation technologies, and 4G connectivity to on-site sensors, weather stations, and telematics—to carry out modern farming activities.
Another particularly important technology today is aerial spectral imagery for vegetable production, which involves capturing high-resolution images from an aircraft. Each of the images can be taken at specific wavelengths of light to reveal meaningful and actionable information regarding the health of vegetable crops.
Everything from irrigation issues, water stress, diseases to thermal stress can be identified by the process, which also uses biological and mathematical modeling to correlate data to the physical state of individual plants. The farms’ in-field personnel can then simply print off the imagery or use a mobile device app to easily locate the areas that need their attention.
That said, implementing good farming practices and using technologies also need to be matched with judicious decision-making when it comes to choosing the type of vegetables to plant.
In many cases, you will also need to consider proper crop rotation of these vegetable species to ensure the balance of nutrients in the soil and to better prevent the incidence of pests and diseases. Here are some options that can help you get started.
The celery is one of the more popular vegetable crops to grow, and you can expect it to give you a medium return on investment with every harvest. Nearly every nutritionist and healthy diet fad lists celery as a staple to consume, not only because of its many health benefits but also because it has very few calories.
This makes it the quintessential weight loss food, ensuring that it will always sell no matter the season. For space constraint purposes, a ten-foot row will take up to 20 celery plants to fill up.
Brussels sprouts is another vegetable crop that can give you a high return on investment, as it is a popular vegetarian staple. This is because when combined with a whole grain diet, Brussels sprouts can be a more than adequate replacement for meat when it comes to protein requirements.
It is also low in fat and sodium while providing many vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, K, and B6, as well as iron, selenium, folate, calcium, and potassium. The only downside to this crop is that it has a relatively small yield for the space it takes up (about 6-8 pounds per square foot).
When it comes to market value and space efficiency, few others come quite close to the humble but prolific green pea. Not only does production per square foot yield 10-12 pounds, but 60-100 pea plants can flourish healthily in a single ten-foot row.
This makes it perfect for farmers who have a limited amount of space, or want to maximize the earning potential of each square foot of their farm. When it comes to nutrition, the green pea is no slouch, coming loaded with vitamins A, B1, B6, K and C. It’s also high in fiber, low in fat, and contain absolutely no cholesterol.
Kale can be considered as the highest-value crop on this list. Not only is it globally recognized as a ’superfood”—i.e. a naturally-occurring food item that is both packed with nutrients and health benefits —it also takes up very little space in order to flourish and grow.
All this makes kale a popular crop all year round for vegetarians and vegetable lovers. If you’re looking for a vegetable crop that is guaranteed to give a high return on investment, kale should definitely be on the top of your list.
Loaded with many vital nutrients, fiber, heart-healthy fatty acids and proteins while having zero cholesterol, Lima beans is another valuable crop that has good space utilization.
Farmers can expect a good yield of 250-300 bushels per acre, sometimes reaching up to 400-450 on exceptionally good harvests.
Another superfood like kale, farmers can expect this healthy and nutritious vegetable to give them a medium to high return on their investment. It is rich in anti-oxidants, and is also valued by consumers for its nutrient content. Just like kale, mustard greens can yield a bountiful harvest even within a small space.
Of course, while the choice of crop is quite important in ensuring your farms’ profitability, it’s only half of the battle as far as having a great harvest is concerned.
All the other elements—good farming practices, a competent staff, properly working equipment, and sensible use of technologies—must come into play once that decision is made. Only then will your farm be able to turn out a tidy profit with its crops.