Whether or not hydroponic growers are using organic practices to produce edible crops, consumers are more likely to be interested in whether the produce is locally grown.
There has been much discussion over whether controlled environment hydroponic food production should be allowed to be certified organic. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, Michigan State University horticulture marketing professor Bridget Behe said CEA hydroponic growers might be valued more by consumers if they promote their crops as being locally grown.
“Hydroponic growers should accentuate the local dimension until market researchers can determine if and how much consumers value the hydroponic dimension,” Behe said.” In a 2011 online study over 800 consumers were shown ornamental, vegetable and herb transplants that were labeled organic, sustainably-produced or local. The study participants were told how the plants were grown, but weren’t given definitions for organic, local or sustainable. Our hypothesis was that there was a dimension of the market that wanted organic. We didn’t distinguish whether the transplants were certified organic or not.
“We were surprised by the study results that found local was the big winner in terms of consumer willingness to pay and likelihood to buy. It went local first, sustainably-produced second and organic was third. It doesn’t mean that organic was valued. It just meant that locally-grown meant more to more people.”