Basement Garden - Generate business through Indoor Agriculture

Basement Garden Indoor Farming -

If you're reading this article, then chances are that you have been thinking about converting your basement to a garden or considering some form of indoor gardening. The indoor farming or indoor gardening industry has seen a tremendous boost over the past few years, with significant innovations and availability of systems to cater to it. Sure enough, your passion for gardening or farming lends a solid hand to your quest to convert your basement into a garden. So where should you start and what does indoor agriculture or controlled environment agriculture (CEA) entail?

We researched numerous articles, spoke with manufacturers, farmers, indoor farmers, urban agriculture experts and vertical farming consultants to gain insights into the profitability of the indoor agriculture business.

This article aims to equip you with most of the answers to allow you to make a decision and decide on the next steps you need to take to create your own indoor garden in your basement.

What is a Basement Garden?

As we know, plants by nature require ample sunlight in order to perform photosynthesis to grow and bloom. They also need water and nutrients which the roots absorb in order to grow. In addition to this, certain plants require certain temperature ranges and humidity levels in order to flourish. With all these factors in mind, a basement garden needs to create the ideal environment with all the above resources in place for plants to grow and flourish.

A basement garden needs to provide light in the form of artificial grow lights that mimic sunlight and provide the right spectrum and wavelengths of light. These grow lights are specifically designed to emit wavelengths of light in the 400-700 nm range (the wavelength of light plants). For more information on the light required by plants refer to our grow light basics article.

Next you need to ensure that your basement garden has a setup to provide water for the plants, irrespective of whether you are growing in soil as a medium or more advanced soilless horticulture methods such as hydroponics, aeroponics or aquaponics. Ensure that the basement is well ventilated or provide for circulation through fans and vents. You will also need to maintain ideal temperature ranges and humidity levels so having controls in place such as heaters/ coolers and dehumidifiers is essential. We touched upon this in more detail in our earlier article on indoor farming.

What crops, vegetables and herbs can be grown in your basement indoor farm?

You can grow most vegetables and herbs in your basement garden or in an indoor farm. The key things to bear in mind are that the ideal plants for indoor growing are ones that don't need a lot of space. Large plants or tall plants become challenging owing to space constraints. Hence, the ideal mix here is of plants that don't take up much room. Plants like peppers or cucumbers need more space, whereas leafy greens and to some extent, even tomatoes can definitely be grown in an indoor garden.

Read this piece to give you an idea of some of the best vegetables to grow indoors

According to a 2017 report by Agrilyst on indoor farming which surveyed indoor farms across the USA and Canada (80% USA), Indoor vertical growers reported yield of 5.45 pounds per square foot for leafy greens (versus 0.69 pounds per square foot conventionally grown) and container farms reported the lowest yields at 3.75 pounds per square foot for leafy greens. Indoor vertical farms can increase their overall yield by stacking additional layers and increasing their growing area as a percentage of available square footage.

Basement Garden design

Basement design ideas to improve income generation

Access to all growing areas

An important aspect of any farm and especially an indoor farm or basement farm is to ensure that you have easy access to every plant. The layout of your grow beds, grow trays, grow racks or towers needs to be kept such that you can walk to them and can touch each plant. This becomes critical during all phases of growth in order to monitor the leaves, root health and provide trellises or supports where needed. More importantly, you should be able to access all your plants and growing areas for the most fun part, the harvest! So plan your layout carefully and if need be draw it out to near inch perfection before you start putting your garden in place.

We recommend using basic free drawing tools such as google drawings or even canva to lay this out.

Ventilation, Temperature and Humidity Control

As alluded to earlier, ventilation and circulation are important for plants as much as it is to human beings. While plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis, they need to have air circulation so as to not feel claustrophobic. Plants tend to transpire a lot which generates a lot of humidity in the air, hence circulation is important to ensure that they are able to breathe.

What does that mean for your basement garden? Ensure that you have fans in place to keep airflow, have vents open if you are using grow tents and having a carbon filter in place especially in a grow tent is essential. A Carbon filter essentially eliminates odors and remove impurities from the growing environment which helps maintain healthy growing conditions. It is advisable to have a carbon filter in place even if you are not using a grow tent. Since you will be using nutrients and other organic or natural fertilizers, these will tend to generate an odor over time. To make sure your basement doesn't end up causing a foul stench, keep carbon filters in place to keep odors and foul smells at bay.

As we mentioned earlier, humidity plays a key role and maintaining the optimum humidity levels for your plants is essential. While this level varies from plant to plant, a 50-70% humidity level is usually what you will need to ensure. So go ahead and invest in a dehumidifier for your basement garden. Keep temperature monitors and humidity monitors in place and provide for some temperature controls for heating or cooling depending on the time of year and your location.

Harvest workspace

In your basement garden design ensure that you have accounted for harvest tables and spaces. This is often simple yet most commonly forgotten. Dedicate an area in the basement where you will gather your harvest and pack or package it. This could be a table or two or some racks that you wish to set up.

Don’t forget the seedling racks

Racks for seedlings need to be configured into the basement garden. You will need a steady supply of seedlings that get transplanted to your main growing area almost week on week depending on the type of plant you are growing. To ensure that you keep your seedling racks and trays close by and dedicate a space for them. The size of this obviously would be basis your growing area, so just ensure that you plan for the same amount of seedlings to be transplanted in time for your harvest.

Can you generate income from your basement garden?

The quick short answer is yes, you can generate income from your basement garden. The biggest advantage of indoor farming or a basement garden is that you can grow plants and fresh produce year-round. By creating a controlled environment for your plants, you not only have the ability to grow most plants year round but will have a competitive advantage and offering to the market by delivering seasonal produce year-round.

You can further optimize your basement garden through soilless agriculture methods such as hydroponics which give 70-80% high yield with just 20-30% of the resource requirements of a traditional farm or garden.

In order to make your basement garden profitable and sustainable, you need to ensure that you in full control through automation, well-planned harvesting schedules, ensuring buyers for your produce and picking the right mix of plants.

Leafy green and micro-greens have been a popular choice amongst indoor farmers and basement growers and almost always guarantee a buyer year round. However, there is a significant rise in trying more exotic herbs, medicinal plants and edible flowers, which are quickly creating a big market and also command a higher price point. Having these as part of your basement garden mix can greatly influence profitability and also give you a unique niche as a basement farm.

According to the 2017 agrilyst report, “Hydroponic operations, for example, reported a minimum of $6.67 per square foot to $42.86 per square foot, averaging at around $21.15 per square foot. the most profitable appeared to be indoor deep water culture, followed by greenhouse operations”.

Of the five most commonly grown crops, 100% of flower operations reported profitability, along with 67% of tomato growers, and 60% of microgreens growers. The most profitable system types were hydroponics and aquaponics”. Tomatoes, microgreens, and flowers are most likely profitable because microgreens have extremely high revenue per pound, and flower and tomato producers have lower operating costs. Vertical farms reporting limited profitability is most likely because it is a new industry that is just beginning to mature.

Looking at only profitable operations (for data stability), the most profitable operation is leafy greens grown hydroponically in a greenhouse at a 46% profit margin.

When we analyzed revenue alone, and among both profitable and unprofitable operations, we saw that hydroponics and greenhouse operations both had average revenues of about $20 per square foot. Here we see that when farms get to profitability, the revenue per square foot increases significantly, to nearly $40 per square foot. And despite not having the highest revenue per square foot of all operations, growing leafy greens hydroponically in a greenhouse has one of the lowest operational costs per square foot, at $20 per square foot. This nets a grower $17 per square foot in profit. For an acre facility, that amounts to about $750,000 in profit.

On average, leafy greens and microgreens had the highest profit margin at 40% across various facility and system types, flowers came in at 30%, and tomatoes came in at 10%.

What is the cost of a basement farm?

The cost of an indoor garden or basement farm depends on a couple of factors. What is the square foot space or grow area you are looking at? How much automation are you willing to put in place? What type of setup are you looking at i.e. hydroponics, soil based etc.

If you are going with hydroponics and depending on your plants, you would consider deep water culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technology (NFT) or grow trays. Then come in the grow lights and these have a wide range of costs depending on quality. So all this adds to up to give a very wide range of costs. The best way to determine what you need is to first identify what you wish to grow and the area you wish to dedicate to growing.

In order to get you thinking number, we spoke to several manufacturers, horticulturalists and urban agriculture consultants.

We have put together a table to give you an idea of the approximate cost of an indoor garden (hydroponic and/or vertical farming with LED Grow Lights):



Entry Level Equipment

Tested Kits + Automation

High End / Commercial Grade

Basement Area





Approx per sq.ft. cost





















Now, sure enough, you may manage to put together something at a lower cost than what we have indicated for DIY indoor gardens. However, what we have taken into account is a certain level of quality, output, efficiency and sustainability in determining the costs.

We hope this article gives you a better idea of what to expect if you are getting into the indoor agriculture business.

Once you have a clearer thought on that, reach out to us for guidance on what the best solution for you would be. We don't have a preference for a certain type of growing method and what you will get is an honest answer and advice on the best solution for your budget and growing space.

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