Growth in greenhouses: Controlled environment agriculture production, operations on the rise

Bar chart comparing U.S. controlled environment agriculture production and operations in 2009 and 2019.

From 2009 to 2019, controlled environment agriculture (CEA), also referred to as “protected agriculture” or “protected culture,” saw significant growth in both the number of operations and production of fresh produce in the United States. CEA systems grant producers control of factors such as temperature, wind, lighting, and/or precipitation. These systems help to increase production while limiting factors that could inhibit growth, such as adverse weather conditions and common pests. In the United States, CEA operations—which include greenhouses, vertical agriculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, and other controlled production methods—increased by more than 100 percent from 1,476 operations in 2009 to 2,994 in 2019. Production volumes increased by 56 percent during the same time to 7.86 million hundredweight. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the crops grown in CEA systems in 2009 and 2019 were tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers, with hydroponic systems being the most common method of cultivation. Updated data from the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Census of Horticultural Specialties are expected in December 2024. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report Trends, Insights, and Future Prospects for Production in Controlled Environment Agriculture and Agrivoltaics Systems, January 2024.

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