Structures & Equipment
Greenhouse retrofits: 4 key problems that can be solved by structural upgrades
By Tyler Rodrigue
By Tyler Rodrigue
As a commercial greenhouse grower, decisions often must be made regarding the choice between building new or retrofitting your existing greenhouse structure. Sometimes modernizing your current greenhouse design and layout is the more cost-efficient route. Below are some common issues and recommended solutions for production, cost savings, efficiency, and crop output, that a retrofit of your current greenhouse operation can accomplish.
Problem: The environment in your commercial greenhouse is not fully optimized for crop growth
- Add more ventilation. This can be a simple and budget friendly retrofit that will breathe new life into your greenhouse. Rollup walls can be added depending on your greenhouse type, and can be controlled automatically or manually with a low cost motor. Sidewalls and gable ends can be retrofitted with vents. Adding this bit of extra ventilation in your growing environment provides fresh air, reduces the humidity and temperature and even lessens the risk of disease.
- Greenhouse LED lighting may be a requirement for your operation. Greenhouse LED lights can allow for customizing different spectrums, ensuring your greenhouse crops are in their ideal environment, regardless of which growth stage they are experiencing.
Problem: Significant costs are rising in energy consumption, water, fertilizer and other inputs
- Consider the installation of flood benches, which may reduce costs of water and fertilizer for years to come.
- Greenhouse LED lighting deserves a second mention when it comes to energy savings. HPS lights are power hungry, while LED lights consume a fraction of electricity by comparison for the same or greater lumens.
- If your energy costs are increasing (we know they’re not going down), then energy curtains are an excellent way to save on heating costs in the winter months (between 20-40%). They can also serve as shade in the summer to keep your greenhouse cool.
- Inspect your vents for wear. Long term exposure from the sun, rain/snow, or wind can damage the seal on your ventilation windows. This may cause malformation on the rubber seal, and vents will not be properly sealing. This can cause heat to escape from your greenhouse and increase your energy costs. Use EPDM rubber as it is more robust than the alternatives.
Problem: Your workforce in isn’t as efficient as it could be
- Reconfigure your benching layout and consider adding rolling benches. Many greenhouses have stationary benches packed so close together that there’s almost no space to walk between the plants. Rolling benches allow growers to require only one aisle in the whole space, and they can create an aisle anywhere they need to access. This can greatly increase worker efficiency.
- Introduce systems that automate repetitive tasks or make them easier. Automated basket systems, conveyor belts, rail carts (depending on your operation) will allow your workers to be more productive.
- Ensure the air is moving in your greenhouse, not just for your crops. If the work environment is hot, then your team can be less productive. Adding fans or ensuring your natural ventilation is optimized will score you productivity gains.
- Computer controls may need modernizing to ensure you’re automating everything you can. Control and monitor almost all aspects of your environment from your smartphone including lighting, vents, shades, heating, irrigation, and fertigation. Eliminate the need for workers to be spending time manually controlling various aspects of the greenhouse environment, and they can better spend their time on jobs that require a human touch.
Problem: Greenhouse production could use a boost
- If you want to increase the volume of plants in your commercial greenhouse space, flood floors may be a solution for you to get as many plants per square foot as possible.
- Consider adding shading or supplemental lights to manipulate your crop’s flowering cycle. Depending on the plant, this is one way to get extra output, or even time your flowering based on seasonality for peak sales.
- Rolling bench systems are worth a second mention when it comes to production gains. You can add up to 25% more growing space versus stationary benches/tables by switching to rolling benches.
Tyler Rodrigue is director of sales and projects at Westland Greenhouse Solutions.
This article was republished with permission from Westland.