Providing a Research Base for Indoor Lighted Production of Strawberries in a Repurposed Poultry House.

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2022: $21,039.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Delaware
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
Project Leader:
Dr. Gordon Johnson
University of Delaware

Information Products


  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)


  • Crop Production: greenhouses, season extension, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: hydroponics
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    When poultry growers lose a contract to grow chickens for an integrator, these poultry houses are retired or are left unused, and income is lost.  There are over 1200 such houses on the Delmarva peninsula.  There is interest in converting these houses into indoor lighted hydroponic growing facilities as a new income source. The long-term vision of Owens Premium Produce is to create opportunities for farmers with retired poultry houses to profit by growing produce for regional markets.  To do so, Owens Premium Produce will team with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Fruit and Vegetable program and the Delaware Indoor Agriculture Laboratory (DIAL) in the University’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences to provide research, outreach, and training for prospective growers.  A demonstration unit for lighted indoor hydroponic production of strawberries will be created in a retrofitted poultry house. In this project, University of Delaware researchers will conduct optimization research on these crops including cultivar evaluations, plant density studies, and lighting program evaluations. Information from these efforts will be extended through electronic resources, field days, grower informational meetings, and on-farm training sessions.  An additional goal is to demonstrate how to convert a poultry house to address food safety concerns for produce production. 


    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to create a research base for lighted indoor hydroponic production of strawberries in a retrofitted poultry house and to provide that information to potential growers. 

    Objective 1.  To evaluate different cultivars for adaptability to the indoor production system for productivity and taste.

    Objective 2.  To evaluate different planting densities to optimize production and quality  

    Objective 3.  To evaluate different lighting regimes to optimize production and quality 

    Objective 4.  To evaluate cooling efficiency of repurposed poultry ventilation equipment on strawberries

    Objective 5.  To educate potential growers with empty poultry houses on successful house conversion and strawberry production.


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    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.