Study of hydroponics in cut flower production to increase water conservation and crop quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G280-23-W9210
Grant Recipient: Zack Family Farms
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Anna Zack
Zack Family Farms


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals, other


  • Crop Production: water management
  • Production Systems: hydroponics
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    There is an increasing demand for locally grown, sustainable produce, including cut flowers. In Utah, like much of the West, water availability is a major concern for farmers and this will likely only continue. While the benefits of growing locally are substantial, water use for conventionally grown flowers is increasingly unsustainable. 

    Many vegetable growers (notably tomato, salad greens and hemp production) successfully grow high quality crops in controlled environments, but little research is available for floriculture. 

    We seek to look at the feasibility of growing high-value crops, such as dahlias, hydroponically indoors to mitigate both the high water usage and pest and environmental pressures of field grown crops. Research species will include five common floriculture crops chosen for their profitability and species diversity: dahlias, snapdragons, cosmos, scented sweet peas and lisianthus. We will test the best methods for each crop grown, and compare water usage directly in conjunction with a field crop of the same variety. We will measure water usage, supplemental fertilization and amendment needs as well as the quality of the flowers with this research, focusing on stem number and length per plant, bloom size, and overall quality. 

    Our goal with this research is to produce a product of similar or higher quality to field production, with significantly less water and land resources. If we are successful, we aim to share our methods and results with other growers to create a standard growing practice in places with low water availability, few land options, or challenging seasonal conditions for growing conventionally. We will disseminate our findings within our local flower community and extension office as well as nationally through the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers and make our information available online.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    By studying the feasibility of growing floriculture crops hydroponically, we aim to test methods that could dramatically reduce water input while maintaining a marketable, local cut flower crop held to the same standards as conventionally grown cut flowers. Using this information we would share with other flower farmers the amount of water saved, hydroponic crop quality, costs involved, and best growing methods for specific crops. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.