Structures & Equipment

An Alberta Agriculture and Forestry specialist says commercial greenhouses in Alberta should be able to benefit from some new research into construction materials and greenhouse design. “Greenhouses have traditionally been energy intensive operations, but with increasing scrutiny and slowly shrinking margins, producers need to find ways of trimming costs wherever possible,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
November 2017 – Are skyrocketing land prices preventing you from starting your own farm business? Don’t fret, because crops can be grown in old industrial buildings too – legal crops at that.
March April 2017 – The need to grow food in the North remains strong, and new high-tech innovations are on the cusp of making large amounts of local greenhouse-grown food a reality.
March 6, 2017, Vancouver – Affinor Growers will showcase its growing technology at the BCTECH Summit on March 14 and 15, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and in partnership with University of Fraser Valley.
Jan. 25, 2017, Lynden, Ont. – Greenbelt Microgreens is modernizing a new 3.5-acre greenhouse facility with state-of-the-art technology, assisted with funding of up to $640,585 from the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program.
Nov. 9, 2016, Brampton, Ont. – Modular Farms Inc., a Canadian start-up founded in 2015, has developed its first modular farm unit.
Aug. 2, 2106, Durham, NH – University of New Hampshire researchers have received a three-year grant for nearly $250,000 that will substantially expand research that aims to improve nutrient and pest management in high tunnel tomato production.
Dec. 9, 2014, West Lafayette, NY — Energy costs account for one of the largest expenses in commercial greenhouse production of annual bedding plants.
High tunnels provide many of the benefits of a greenhouse but with much reduced cost, and their use is allowing some greenhouse operators to capture profits from additional markets.
More and more fruit and vegetable farmers across Canada are incorporating the use of high tunnels in their operations.
Jan. 13, 2010, Washington – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced a new pilot project under the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels – also known as hoop houses – to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way.
Dec. 8, 2008, Ithaca, NY — Fred Forsburg's tomatoes are perfect - tough to do in a certified organic operation where no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used. The Livonia farmer's secret: growing tomatoes in high tunnels.
July 4, 2009 — “This is what climate protection looks like” is the catchphrase of the North American Acrylite® acrylic sheet climate protection campaign now being launched by Evonik Cyro.
A  little extra light can make a big difference. Recent innovations have increased the transparency of energy-saving screens for vegetable and ornamental crop production. The ability for higher light transmission further optimizes the growing climate while keeping the heat in, important during the colder seasons when vegetable prices typically peak.
March April 2017 – While the benefits of diffuse light for plants in the greenhouse have long been proven, recent research reveals that the quality of diffuse light is also an important factor in plant quality and productivity.
March April 2017 – Curtain systems are an integral part of climate control for many greenhouse growers, yet there are still numerous greenhouses not using this valuable tool effectively, or even at all. The main function of greenhouse curtains are shading and energy savings, however a good curtain can be valuable for controlling the greenhouse environment in other ways as well. Proper climate control is the result of integrating various systems, and no addition to your greenhouse should be addressed in isolation.
June 2016 – Weary of yearly whitewashing to protect their peppers from sunburn, Ontario’s NatureFresh™ Farms went in search of a more efficient option. They found the answer in double screening, a technique that European growers have been using with great success for years, but which is still relatively new to North America.
March 2016 — Climate here is a funny old thing, and less predictable than it used to be. But we still at least expect January through March to be colder than summer and plan accordingly. So it is that many greenhouse producers are routinely using screens to reduce energy costs.
March 2016 — When it comes to shading, which type performs best in greenhouses? Two recent studies conducted in Florida set out to find the answer by comparing the properties of three 60 per cent shades commonly used for nursery and greenhouse production.
Winner of the 2018 GreenTech Innovation Award, Visser Horti Systems’ AutoStix is an open source transplanting system. Not only does it automate the labour-intensive and often slow process of sticking cuttings, it uses biodegradable strips to keep things environmentally friendly.
Transport within the greenhouse is about to get faster and easier as Berg Hortimotive heads into their last phase of developing a new autonomous harvesting trolley.
Among the many applications of On Robot’s robot grippers, they’re being used to pack herbs at Rosborg Food Holding, one of Denmark’s largest producers of herbs and miniature flowering plants.
February 2017 – I don’t very often check out the business section of the BBC News page, but a recent headline caught my eye. “In the not-too-distant future, our fields could be tilled, sown, tended and harvested entirely by fleets of co-operating autonomous machines by land and air.”1
February 2017 – It’s not a question of “if” you’ll automate more of your crop production processes. It’s only a question of  “when.”
DECEMBER 2016 – Cold climate, economic downturn, empty buildings and warehouses have always spurred interest in indoor horticulture. Various terms have been used, such as indoor farming, vertical farming, container growing, vertical walls, and many others.
What if someone told you that plant physiology and physics could change the way you think about greenhouse climate control?
In late September, the AAC (Agricultural Adaptation Council) will be closing its application submissions for the “Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative” (GCII).
What if monitoring temperature controls was automated, and a grain bin itself could warn suppliers of low levels?
Aug. 10, 2015, Toyohashi, Japan — Nowadays it is not a surprise to get a tomato production of 50kg/m2 in a high-tech greenhouse; however it was a remarkable record in Japan.
May 21, 2015 – AccuWeather reports the upcoming summer will be very warm across much of western and central Canada as the cool weather will be mostly confined to Atlantic Canada.
June 2015 – Greenhouses, with their moist, warm atmospheres, may seem absolutely tropical to many people in late winter, but from the vegetables’ point of view, the proportion of warmth and humidity isn’t always optimal.
In this article, we will focus on how to plan and execute a structured irrigation strategy, thus optimizing the rootzone, and consequently decreasing plant stress and potentially increasing yields.
For plants to grow optimally, adequate nutrients and water uptake are necessary to maintain plant growth and development. There are two general methods in which water and nutrients move in and out of plants cells: passive and active.
When we talk about ‘water management’ in greenhouses, our thoughts typically consider irrigation scheduling, control equipment or maybe simply having enough. At this year’s Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA) Growers Short Course (held simultaneously with the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C.), Olaf van Marrewijk of Hagelunie (Leiden, N.L.) gave a different ‘take’.
The horticultural industry is under constant pressure to improve environmental performance while remaining competitive.
It takes a lot of work – and a lot of water — to grow healthy trees and shrubs for Canada’s ornamental plant sector. The industry, which boasts approximately 3,500 nurseries across Canada, uses an estimated 190 million cubic metres of water every year.But new research suggests this is two to three times more water than healthy trees need. And soon a new tool will be available to help nursery managers determine when to turn on–and turn off–the hose.Jared Stoochnoff, a University of Guelph graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, is pioneering a new irrigation management strategy designed to reduce water consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of ornamental nursery operations.“Because many nursery irrigation managers lack reliable ways to quantitatively predict a plant’s actual water requirements, they tend to err on the side of caution and overwater,” Stoochnoff says. “This results in unnecessarily high water and fertilizer run-off that negatively impacts local watersheds.”Stoochnoff’s team used high-tech sensor equipment to measure plant water status and quantify crop water stress tolerance thresholds. When they put those irrigation schedules based on actual requirements to the test, they reduced the nursery’s water use by 60 per cent without affecting the total growth or wholesale value of the crop.“It’s not economically feasible to implement the equipment we were using at every nursery in Canada, but by characterizing the relationships between crop water stress levels, weather conditions and species-specific water stress tolerance thresholds, we’re now able to predict optimal irrigation frequency using onsite weather station data,” says Stoochnoff.Stoochnoff wrote a prototype program that used onsite weather station data to predict plant water stress tolerance thresholds. Each time the threshold was reached, the program triggered irrigation and alerted Stoochnoff via text message. He was able to monitor the nursery’s current weather conditions and water use to date, and could even trigger irrigation directly from his cell phone if needed.As a next step, Stoochnoff’s team will develop the program into an app that can be made available to a larger group of nurseries for testing. He says the program will be flexible depending on the nursery’s irrigation preferences.“Once adopted by the nursery sector, this has the potential to conserve millions of litres of water each year and reduce the environmental footprint of ornamental nursery operations,” says Stoochnoff.Financial support was received from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, Landscape Ontario, and The Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation. In-kind contributions of materials, labour and field site access were provided by Connon Nurseries, C.B. Vanderkruk Holdings, ICT International and Root Rescue Environmental.This project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. For more, visit AgInnovation Ontario
October 2017 – Preparation for painting my home office/study recently required a serious clearing out, and I undertook a somewhat enforced go-through of my filing cabinet. You know the feeling. (If you don’t, do it sometime, it’s pretty liberating. But be warned, it will take you much longer than you think!) Three drawers packed tight with technical crop information from the late ’80s onwards. (Now you see why it was liberating.)
Winter months in the greenhouse are a good time to see where your operation could be more efficient to save on energy, especially heating bills. Now’s the time to check out what is and isn’t working and what you might like to change for next season.
May 26, 2017, Quebec City – CO2 Solutions Inc., a leader in the field of enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology, has updated progress at the its first commercial project with Fibrek General Partnership, a subsidiary of Resolute Forest Products Inc., and Serres Toundra Inc.
June 2017 – It’s -10 C outside and a foot of snow already covers the ground. An intense orange light appeared in the northern Lac Saint-Jean skies just over a month ago showing some signs of industrial development. But forget about any forestry or aluminum development like the region is used to. This time around, it’s all about cucumbers.
January 2017 – All greenhouses use energy, regardless of size. Whether one acre or 15, heating in winter and cooling/ventilation in summer are critical to maintain the optimal internal climate.
January 2017 – Three of the four largest greenhouse regions of Canada are facing a similar hurdle. This challenge is politically created, and will require political solutions.
DECEMBER 2016 – In recent times, sewage heat recovery has emerged as one of the most ingenious methods of obtaining energy from an alternate resource. The central idea revolves around using the energy from the hot water leaving the building to reheat the cold water entering it.
Every cold-climate greenhouse grower experiences it – it’s cold outside, the heat is on, but the relative humidity levels need to come down to prevent disease. The solution? The vents get opened to get rid of that moist air and exchange it for drier air – except the greenhouse loses heat in the process!
In our October article, we discussed how we can optimize lighting conditions for plant growth, how to measure light, the optimum lighting requirements for various groups of plants and how to calculate the deficit. Now that we are familiar with lighting basics, let us look into the spectral composition of light.
Andrew Mans initially installed high pressure sodium (HPS) lights in the greenhouse, but quickly found that they had a high failure rate.
Starting a decade ago, researchers focused on the potential of LED (light-emitting diode) lighting for greenhouse horticultural crops, whether ornamental or vegetable. Usually, high pressure sodium lamps (HPS) are the most used in the greenhouse industry around the world.
With greenhouse strawberries becoming increasingly popular among consumers, how can supplemental lighting be used to help improve their production and potentially open avenues to other berry crops?
Light is a prerequisite for photosynthetic activity for all crops whether the crops are grown in an open field or grown under cover. When light is insufficient, healthy plant development is hindered, which manifests in a variety of crop issues including poor root development, susceptibility to diseases and pests, stunted growth, delayed flowering, stretch, and low transplant viability.
In our last article we examined the potential for saving energy by integrating dimmable horticultural LED lighting systems into various feedback-control strategies. This time, we will review background concepts of LED light spectrum and explore how spectral modifications can be leveraged to improve crop production.

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