Hydroponically Grown Hops

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Hayden34, May 6, 2017.

  1. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    Not sure if this is the right forum for this but...alright I need anyone with experience growing hops in a greenhouse using hydroponics to chime in please. I am in Afghanistan for a year and I am saving a ton of money out here. I would like to invest some of my money saved into a greenhouse and grow hops in a hydroponics setup. I have grown hops before but never with this technique so I'm just trying to get all the information I can at this point. I am located in the middle GA area. I have reached out to a few hop farmers who grow hops hydroponically but so far have had no luck getting the answers I need. I have 11 months to go out here so I have plenty of time for planning. Please help! Thanks in advance.
    GreenKrusty101 likes this.
  2. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (733) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Hops would not be my first choice of crops to grow hydroponically...too much mass and not enough cash :slight_smile:
    Hayden34 likes this.
  3. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    Well the other option I considered isn't exactly legal in my state yet. ;-)
  4. youradhere

    youradhere Zealot (516) Feb 29, 2008 Washington

    Hops I don't think would be suited for hydropinics- seems like too much a vegetative mass for the bines on the hydro system I suppose.

    You be better investing in good irrigation and cable system, try to find a good warm weather strain that resists downy mildew (being as you are in GA), and plant them in the ground on a couple acres.

    If you are hell bent on hydro hops, try a few pilot plants on some Home Depot buckets with clay bead medium and a cheap fish tank recirc pump. Test the hops to see what they look like they are vigorous and the process is easy enough, then scale it up.
  5. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    There are quite a few hop farms that grow hops hydroponically so it is definitely possible. Hydrohops and Round Table Hops being two that I can think of right off the top of my head. I have already reached out to both companies and actually bought the Hydroponic Hop Manual from HydroHops which is PACKED with great information about growing hops in a hydroponic setup. I have grown hops outdoors for several years, but they just don't produce very well in the Georgia summer heat, hence the reason I want to go the greenhouse route.

    I am just looking for information from anyone who has experience with growing hops in a hydroponic setup to get as many viewpoints as possible on the subject. I already have quite a bit of useful info from Hydrohops to get me started, but the more information I can gather, the better prepared I'll be and I have almost a full year to plan while I'm out here in the suck.
    JrGtr and Durban_Hops like this.
  6. Durban_Hops

    Durban_Hops Initiate (0) Jun 3, 2018

    This is Kris Wittman here with Durban Indoor Hops LLC. We have worked with both companies. We would be honored in setting up a phone call with you. If you are still interested in this adventure! We are looking for people as in yourself to help create the Craft Hop Industry. We have worked in Hydro Hop Farms for a year, worked with Colorado state university, Round Table Hops, and others across the country. Would you still be interested?
    Thanks for your time and consideration!

    Kris Wittman
    Durban Indoor Hops LLC
    Co-founder and Project manager
  7. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,762) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    This is an old thread. I'm curious if @Hayden34 made progress on this.
  8. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (254) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    I use fish water from my 75 gallon on all my vegetable crops.... liquid fertilizer. Does this count?
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  9. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (106) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    I'm curious as well and am glad @pweis909 revisited the thread.

    A friend of mine who has occasional, casual contact with folks at Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens, GA told me that Terrapin "wears out the microbiology department" at UGA for yeast related inquiries.....perhaps UGA has a program dedicated to hops, too. It might be worth a shot to contact the UGA Extension service for your county and see if they have thoughts on who to contact at UGA.

    If you go to the page linked HERE and scroll to the bottom there's info on how to contact UGA Extension Offices, by county.

    Who knows....if it's viable you might end up being instrumental in implementing this method for the Southeast US.
    Hayden34 likes this.
  10. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    I actually just got back from Afghanistan about a month ago so I haven't had time to really pursue this project yet BUT I did get 3 acres of land and I plan to plant an acre in hops next spring so I'll keep everyone posted.
  11. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (106) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Please do. I might have more than just a mild, passing interest in the progress.
    You mentioned in your opening post that you're in middle GA. If you don't mind divulging, how far is your acreage is from Macon, or maybe Milledgeville?
    Hayden34 likes this.
  12. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    cool, check with local brewers if you havent already and see what they want.
    im betting you will have bug and mildew issues so get a private applicater spray licence.

    you will need it.
    Hayden34 likes this.
  13. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    My land is in Dooly county, which if you are unfamiliar is about 45 minutes South of Macon.
  14. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    Yep. I planted about 30 hop bines at my Dad's house (he lives 20 miles South of me) before I deployed to Afghanistan and he has been taking care of them while I was away. I bought them a year old so this is their 3rd year. A few varieties produced a good bit of cones last year and are already growing side-arms this season. We haven't experienced any mildew issues yet but my dad said it has been a constant battle with pests. Hopefully I'll get enough hops to brew a few batches this fall.
    riptorn likes this.
  15. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    30 bines should give you plenty of home brewing hops. neem oil works wonders on pests and diseases but should not be applied once the burr stage happens. when its a chemical approach or beneficial insects to keep the spider mites away and dead. I scout my field every week, spray when needed, and do nothing if no problems exsist. pick off spotted leaves and discard away from the hop yard as the appear. Mites use the main trunk of the bines as a highway so be sure to treat it as the mites appear as well as both sides of all leafs.
    pweis909 and Hayden34 like this.
  16. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (106) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    I contracted to GA Pwr a while back and went through most of their territories, so I am somewhat familiar with Dooly County.....I remember it as being a lot of flat land, big AG and big deer.

    Are you still exploring the greenhouse/hydro route? Could hops be grown year-round in that environment?
    Within the last 6 months or so I read about a hop farmer in NC who was developing a niche market to supply fresh hops to local Asheville brewers, with a goal of delivering within hours after picking. Not sure how his business model panned out, but it seems there would be some demand for genuinely fresh hops throughout the year.
    Hayden34 and GormBrewhouse like this.
  17. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    HA! That's funny you mentioned that because I JUST picked up some neem oil yesterday. I read more than a few hop growing books while I was in Afghanistan (amongst many other books) and it seems like neem oil is the way to go. I took a tour of 4 or 5 large hop farms when I was in New Zealand back in February and the guy giving me the tour from New Zealand hops said they don't even spray for pests in NZ. Must be nice!

    I'm going to hold off on the greenhouse for now simply due to cost. I promised the wife I would build her a house, which is happening in the next few months, so of course the wife gets what she wants first. Maybe in a few years. Hops can definitely be grown year round in my area, but I don't think the yields will be nearly as high as a more northern location. Time will tell.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  18. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (370) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    There's a place near me, Start Line Brewing, that is attached to a farm that's doing hydroponic hops.
    It's in Massachusetts, but I bet they have some information that may be useful.
    The thing that occurs to me is having a greenhouse high enough for the bines to climb. I have a few plants going at home, with a 12-foot high rig; they would go way higher if they had the room. I know commercial farms set up for 20 - 30 foot tall. I bet hydroponic would get at least that high. PLus, hops do best when they freeze over the winter, or at least get real cold, IIRC. that's the tough thing in Georgia, I would think.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  19. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (106) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    I wondered about the height restriction too. Maybe they can be trained to grow horizontally like grapevines. It would require a larger footprint per bine but would overcome the vertical challenges imposed by a greenhouse.
    Still have to consider loss of any benefits realized from freezing in winter though, which is unlikely to happen with regularity in Dooly County, GA.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  20. chavinparty

    chavinparty Initiate (122) Jan 4, 2015 New Hampshire

    Probably easier to move north. Reminds me of a local farm growing citrus in nh. A labor of love but environmentally an cost wise rediculous. The idea with hops is to air condition?! Sorry guys I wish i could grow citrus but you gotta grow what will grow in your environment
  21. Granitebeard

    Granitebeard Initiate (97) Aug 24, 2016 Maine

    Which is why I did a lot of research for my area. While not ideal do to humidity, perhaps some of the Neomexicanus varieties would work in GA if you can control humidity some or have larger spacing. If you can set a price point that people will pay that justifies the expenses you need, then have at it. If you can do that, then you need to reconsider things.

    I don't have a business degree, and I have jumped into my hop yard by mostly just winging it. I did many things out of order, like just getting my market research survey out now... I am also not quiting my day job. So my yard is more hobby farm. But learning, which it sounds like the OP did a lot of, is a huge part for people like me just jumping into something.

    Good luck!
  22. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Yep, I bet if the yields were lower, the. Additional costs of the greenhouse and the electricity to run then would cut in the profiets hard.

    I got up to 45 bines then found out the old standards were not what local Brewers really wanted. Patented hop growing is costly and it's not garenteed you can get the variety that is burning hot, at the moment.

    All the same I love growing my hops even if I give some away most years. I'll always love to grow just. About anything.

    Best of
    riptorn and Hayden34 like this.
  23. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    I actually have 2 different varieties of Neomexicana hops (Multihead and Willow Creek) growing already. The Multiheads grew very well last year but didn't produce any cones and the Willow Creek bines didn't grow well at all. So far it has been an experimentation game to see what will grow and produce. My Comet and Zeus hops actually produced a good bit of cones last year, especially for their second year. So we'll see how they do this year.

    I have often wondered how you get into growing patented hop varieties. Maybe we can have a side conversation regarding this topic.

    I feel the same way about growing things. I grew up on a farm and my father has a few acres of fruit (grapes, blueberries, peaches, etc) that I've been helping out with since I was a kid. I figure I will start with an acre and see how it goes from there. If it doesn't work out then I won't have too much invested in the operation, and maybe I can shift my focus to something else. I have a passion for growing plants so either way I'll be farming those 3 acres of land I now have.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  24. Granitebeard

    Granitebeard Initiate (97) Aug 24, 2016 Maine

    From what I have encountered in my hop searches. You have to be able to support a certain amount of acreage and sign a non-propagation clause that subjects you to the whims of the seller of the plants. The one I read lead me away from them, not that I have the acreage, as i don't feel like getting sued if a root turns up "out of the row".

    I do however see the same draw to just the big patented hops in my area. It is kind of too bad honestly, but if you do good market research, you might find a couple varieties that local places want and are willing to grab from you.
    GormBrewhouse and Hayden34 like this.
  25. chavinparty

    chavinparty Initiate (122) Jan 4, 2015 New Hampshire

    I’ve got a couple comet rhizomes starting this year. I think it’s the most interesting hop we can grow at the moment outside of neomexicanus varieties. Are those cold hardy? If so where do I get the rhizomes? I won a local homebrew comp with a Medusa ipa last year but I haven’t bought any since because it’s so expensive
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  26. Granitebeard

    Granitebeard Initiate (97) Aug 24, 2016 Maine

    Comet does well in northern climates. Or at least some places are having luck. Great Lakes Hops, which is where most of my stuff comes from, grows them at around 41 or 42 degrees latitude, so as long as you can manage the new england weather, they should do OK in NH. I have 11 plants and got the rhizomes from Adventures in Homebrewing. Great Lakes hops also sells them as plants, more cost but they are at least 3 months old so they have a some what established root system. Comet is not a hard plant/rhizome to find.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  27. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    My comet bines are already producing cones and are LOADED with them this year. I got them from Great Lakes hops and they are 3 years old at this point. I will try to get a picture this weekend to post. So apparently Comet is a variety that does well in the South as well.
  28. Tommy_Varnadoe

    Tommy_Varnadoe Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2018

    Just came by your post about growing hops in central Georgia. I have about 35 cascade and 35 chinooks planted in a sandbed in Wheeler County, a little over an hour south Macon.
    Hayden34 likes this.
  29. Hayden34

    Hayden34 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2014 Georgia

    You're not very far from me then. I am in Crisp County currently but I'm building a house in Dooly county in a few months.
  30. Hopful-Josh

    Hopful-Josh Initiate (0) Oct 17, 2018

    Thanks everyone, this is a great thread!!! I'm coming in a bit late here but i'd love to get some insights / info from those already growing hops. I'm from New Zealand a, so i don't know all the details of growing hops in the USA.

    I have a few questions that i'd love for as many people to answer as possible:

    How much do you pay for your hop plants?
    Does the cost vary if you are buying more. I note one person said they had 35 plants growing.

    On the patented hops, does anyone know the cost for licensing?

    What spacing does everyone use between there hop plants?

    Those already growing hops, do you manage the mineral composition of the soil, or do you just plant and see what happens?
  31. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Generally, if you buy more plants or rhizomes, you will get a price break, but the price reduction probably starts at 50+ plants.
    Don't know about cost and requirements for patent protected hops

    I space my hops 10 feet apart. Plenty of air flow, helps keep the mold down some.

    Where is @Granitebeard ?
  32. Granitebeard

    Granitebeard Initiate (97) Aug 24, 2016 Maine

    My small hop yard is 10ft between rows and all my plants are at 32 inch spacing except for Canterbury Goldings and Tahoma (this one was a mistake), which are 24 inches. Tahoma needs more space, but they sent me freebies so i made do with the space I had... Thus far the others seem OK. I needed to tame some side arms, but at my size it is more than manageable. I am clearing more trees from mine as I feel the back end was too crowded, and that is where I had the biggest downy mildew issue.

    Hop plants will run you about $10-$12 dollars for a few plants. Rhizomes should be in the $5-$8 range per rhizome. Usually if you get more than 25 to 50 rhizomes (depending on location) you start to see discounts. I bought 60 comet rhizomes and think it was around $4.25 per. I did buy a bunch of plants from Great Lakes Hops (126 of them) and was in $8 per plant range. I was told if I go truly commercial, plants can get down to $3-$4.50 per but that is when you are buying 1500+ plants.

    My experience looking into the proprietary hops, is there is no licensing cost just a contract to sign stating that they can come and check your yard whenever they feel like it, kind of regulate what you grow, and if it is deemed that you are propagating the plant, sue your and potentially they can seize your yard. Otherwise, typically they want to to have been a hop yard for 5 years or so and have established steady sales with "decent" sized breweries.

    If looking to make hop growing something to be your business or make you side money, soil treatment is a must. I was winging it my first few years, but as I got to where I am now, I have done more and more. Universities typically have co-op extension that do soil testing and will make suggestion for what to use if you talk to them about what you are doing. I can been using mostly bone meal products (I go organic) in the fall and spring to mid summer. This is typically a 6-10-0 or there about type of product. I also use a rose fertilizer that is around 4-6-2 in the spring to mid season. These tend to release slowly so are good for a while. When I start to see that hops are forming I switch to a 1-3-2 water soluble fertilizer weekly. I personally need to nail down a few areas a little better here, but I am still rather new to it too, so am learning what I can when I can.

    /end wall of text...