Structures & Equipment

This is the time of year to begin planning for next year’s greenhouse building projects. While many growers are eager to plan new construction projects and expand, sometimes the best dollar value is achieved by retrofitting and modernizing their existing greenhouse structures.
The first two floors of 1400 Rue Antonio Barbeau in Montreal look like they belong on any other low-density commercial building – blocky, covered in mottled brown brick and windows gazing into a beige interior. Just over the lip of its roof, though, peeks long walls made of glass and metal, and inside them, rows of vegetables.
There’s something different about the glass at Freeman Herbs – it’s pink.
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.
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.
From stoplights to interior illumination, artificial electric lighting is technology that we rely on in our daily lives to help us at work, at home, and everywhere in between. In greenhouse horticulture, we increasingly depend on it for production purposes – to help crops grow on a precise schedule, throughout the year and in spite of varying natural light levels.
As energy and production costs continue to rise for the horticulture sector, commercial greenhouse growers need to do all they can to operate more efficiently. One way growers are doing this is by installing energy curtain systems in their greenhouses.
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.
Canadian cucumbers are a hot commodity. Canada is the world’s fourth largest cucumber exporter with a farmgate value of cucumber production at roughly $326 million in 2014.
With simple automation during propagation, a grower could experience a 25 per cent gain in production. Automating the full process could lead to 50, 60 or 70 per cent gain in efficiency. So what's the main barrier to adopting new automation machinery? Grower acceptance, says Jack Ford of Agrinomix.
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
Plants are living, breathing and producing organisms. Just like any other living creature, they require nutrients with which they maintain their physiological processes and continue to develop.
The sun can bring 800 Watts per m2 inside a greenhouse. That is a huge amount of energy, especially considering the total size of greenhouses nowadays. For a 10-ha greenhouse, that equates to 80,000 kW! However, only two per cent is converted by the crop canopy for growth, the other 98 per cent will leave the greenhouse. In that sense, plant production is not very energy efficient.
What exactly is 'next generation' growing? Pieter Kwakernaak of Hoogendoorn explains how the three plant balances - water, assimilate and energy - should dictate how production practices are carried out in the greenhouse.
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?
"Think about what you're trying to achieve during plant propagation," says Dr. Will Healy of Ball Hort. The goal is to put roots on a plant and try to grow healthy, green leaves. It all comes down to plant moisture and nutrition. But don't water too much! According to Healy, a grower's number one job is to dry out the plants.
With so many other tasks requiring attention, modern greenhouses are beginning to integrate automated systems for crop moisture assessment.
What is plant empowerment? Typically, traditional plant production methods are based on a mixture of blueprints, best practices, common knowledge of plant physiology, as well as the ‘green fingers’ and ‘emotional perception’ of growers. This approach has been successful, but also has several limitations.
How wet is ‘wet’, and how dry is ‘dry’?At the Green Industry Show in Edmonton last year, Dr. Will Healy, senior technical and research manager at Ball Horticultural Company, spoke about a method to describe soil wetness using Levels 1 through 5:
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.
Armed with the latest greenhouse technology, this Yukon grower is bringing fresh vegetables to Canada’s northern climates.
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.
In January’s issue of Greenhouse Canada, readers were introduced to the concept of ‘Growing by Plant Empowerment’ (GPE). Combining grower experience and knowledge of plant physiology, the goal of GPE is to optimize the behaviour of plants in the greenhouse environment by maintaining critical balances involving energy, water, CO2 and assimilates within the plant.
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!
From promoting root growth in ornamentals to increasing fresh weight in lettuce, applying a selective spectrum of supplemental light seems to be a gamechanger.
Horticultural lighting applications have increased exponentially over the past few years.
There are three characteristics of light you should consider when designing the ideal light environment for your crops: light quality, light quantity and light duration.
What are the benefits to LEDs during propagation? Dr. Youbin Zheng of the University of Guelph talks about the versatility of LEDs. Different spectrums and combinations can change the morphology at different stages of the plants. As LED technology continues to improve and its prices go down, more and more commercial greenhouses are using LEDs to replace HPS.
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.

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