Controlling All Possibilities

Controlling All Possibilities

Environmental controls can do a lot these days, so how can growers better utilize controls? What are the latest technologies and tips for greenhouse controls? We asked environmental controls suppliers these questions and here are their responses. 

Open Systems & Keeping Histories

by ALEC MACKENZIE
Argus Controls 

With the release of our new Titan control platform, Argus has extended the power and flexibility of automated equipment control for commercial growers. Our system anticipates the need for new ways of operating greenhouses to minimize energy and water use, and for increasing productivity. It is designed to handle the new structures, equipment and growing practices that we foresee will be needed in response to increasing energy costs and tighter margins.

Accordingly, we have taken an open systems approach to configuring equipment control capabilities. We provide a suite of programs designed for the efficient operation of typical greenhouse equipment such as vents, mixing valves, etc. We include many features to anticipate all types of operating requirements and constraints. At the same time, we build in a level of safety that respects the physical limitations of the equipment such as duty cycles, wear and tear, etc.

We also include a powerful collection of generic programs that can be used to configure practically any type of equipment control decision or response. We do this because it is impossible to anticipate every control requirement and operating constraint our customers may need, and also because we just hate saying no to anyone.

One of the many control concepts we have developed is the ability to make control decisions based on recent historical events. For the most part, traditional control decisions are based on instantaneous or near instantaneous information such as the current climate temperature. However, there are times when it can be useful to steer the climate by using information gathered over the last few hours or days. This can provide a more complete picture of where a crop might be in terms of its development, current photosynthetic capabilities and stored energy reserves. You can then use this information to influence control decisions. For example, you might decide to elevate the temperature on nights that follow bright sunny days. This can help ensure the full assimilation of the energy stored through daytime photosynthesis. For crops where timing is critical, you can also use this information to either accelerate or slow down the growth rate by automatically adjusting the average daily temperature.

The new Argus Titan system has enhanced monitoring and data recording capabilities. This functionality is becoming increasingly important as greenhouse equipment systems become more complex. The control system must be able to monitor itself, as well as the connected equipment and the processes that are being controlled. It must also be capable of conveying this information to the operator as clearly as possible. Continuous data recording is an indispensable tool for spotting subtle problems, evaluating long-term trends and visualizing the interconnected effects of parameters such as heat, light, humidity and equipment operations.

Our aim is to put the grower in charge of the climate. We know how to operate equipment safely and efficiently; growers know their crop and what it needs. Within the limitations of structures and controlled equipment, the control system must be capable of automatically adjusting all controlled production variables such as temperature, humidity, light, water and nutrients. Only then can growers consistently achieve optimum crop performance and productivity. 

Cooperation Between Grower & Supplier 

by KORNEL STRZALKOWSKI
Priva Controls

Every greenhouse operation is unique and each grower has his own views on ideal growing conditions. Ideally, you want to see an immediate return on every new investment made, as well as ongoing positive returns on existing investments. In order for this to happen, your control system needs to be optimally integrated within your operational process to provide the information you need to create the perfect climate. Each grower grows his own crop in a distinctive environment at a unique location. In the operation, the needs and ideas of the grower have to be combined. Priva has a wide program of controllers available. Priva can deliver the modular Maximizer controller, which is easy to use, up to sophisticated, tailor-made Integro systems with electrical panels.

One solution to utilize controls better is cooperation at the start between the grower and installer for the specific greenhouse operation. This is what we call the “Optimahouse” approach. We conceive, manufacture and optimize (thinking, making, perfecting) a system so the best possible climate prevails in the greenhouse. Together, we make the next step with you. The Priva project engineers are available at the start of the thinking process.

Secondly, the control systems have a lot of unused possibilities. The software is available, the hardware is there, but how do you use this and improve quality and quantity? Two immediate areas in which a control system can be very effectively utilized are energy and crop strategies. This will improve the quality and quantity of your product and save you money in energy costs.

Energy costs for a greenhouse operation can be as much as 33 percent of the total operating costs for growers. There is an interrelationship between the three aspects of a greenhouse operation: type of greenhouse installation, computer controls and crop. This interrelationship has to be optimized. There are many possibilities in setting up the controls, but not all growers have the time to do this. Priva, working with the grower and their consultant, can optimize the climate and energy strategy. The Priva advisor will bridge the gap between the required cultivation strategy, automation and energy consumption. The advisor will work with the grower to help determine how to optimize the climate controls for the grower’s own situation. The initial energy savings, after the visit of the energy consultant, can be 5 percent of your energy cost.

Lastly, visits are not always possible by consultants and support technicians. At times, it is best to have someone on site for the first meeting, but further support can be done by remote access. Priva has developed a new service called Web Services. Through the use of the Internet, it is now possible to provide advice and support and avoid expensive travel costs. 

Maintenance Is Key 

by PATRICIA DEAN
Wadsworth Controls 

Fall is an excellent time to fine tune your controls to ensure you’re getting the best performance.

No matter what type of control you have, you can refine it to maximize energy efficiency.

Thermostats

– Have you checked their calibration? Running warmer or colder than you intend to because of a thermostat that’s out of calibration costs you money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every 1 degree of improved accuracy reduces energy consumption by 3 percent.

– Can you shade or aspirate your thermostats? When warmed by the sun, they will read a temperature higher than the real air temperature. Your fans will stay on too long and your heat will come on too late.

– Check on investing in a simple four-stage control with a centralized temperature sensor. It’ll pay for itself in one winter. 

Staged Controls

– Check calibration.

– Ensure the control is optimizing crop production and energy savings as it switches between day and night settings. If not, you might be impacting the savings of running your greenhouse at a lower night temperature. 

Integrated Controls

– Check calibration annually.

– Because of their variety of features, there are added opportunities to make sure you are getting the best out of your control.

– Are you taking full advantage of its scheduling features?

– Day length: perhaps you can transition to day temperatures 30, 60 or even 90 minutes after sunrise, or slow down the ramp time between day and night, allowing the sun to help warm the house to day temperatures.

– Energy curtain cover/uncover times: You might choose to cover earlier than sunset or uncover later than sunrise to extend the time that the curtain insulates your house.

– Pad pumps can be scheduled to turn off two or even three hours before sunset to allow them to dry out every day. This practice discourages algae, which lessens the need for chemical treatments and extends the life of the pad.

– If you have both roof vents and fan-and-pad cooling, is your sequence of operation set to let the vents handle as much of the cooling as possible? Many users set fans to sequence on only 2 to 3 degrees above the set point, which gives the vent little room to operate.

– Have you put your pad pump at an energy-efficient place in your sequence of operation? Having the pad pump cycle on before the last stage of fans can delay or even save the fan stage from being turned on. The small pad pump provides enough extra cooling to save several horsepower of fan motors in the spring and fall, when cooling loads are less demanding.

– If you use supplemental CO2, are you using your integrated control’s features to delay ventilation and air conditioning to get maximum CO2 dwell time? Have you set your ventilation interlocks correctly so that the CO2 is shut off when you need to ventilate?

– Are you using the humidity monitoring and control features of your control? Did you know when the weather is not too severe, you can run your pad pump to add a little humidity to a dry house? Have you used the control to keep humidity from rising above 90 percent where condensation and disease problems are most likely?

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
Figure 1. Mustard microgreens grown under sole-source (SS) lighting using light-emitting diode (LED) arrays.

August 21, 2015

Sole-Source LED Lighting In Horticulture: Microgreens P…

In Part 2 of a four-part lighting series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers examine the effects of sole-source LED lighting on microgreen production to achieve the highest quality crop possible in an energy efficient manner.

Read More
Lighting 2015 August Feature Image

August 14, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Ornamental Cr…

Do you find that your purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) crop is often green to light purple? What if we told you there is a quick solution to enhance and darken the foliage of purple fountain grass or other floriculture crops? In this second article of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of high-intensity light-emitting diodes (LEDs), we will discuss our research methodology and findings for enhancing the foliage color of ornamental crops with end-of-production (EOP) supplemental lighting (SL) in the greenhouse. Many ornamental crops that greenhouse and nursery growers produce vary in size, shape and color. These variables are often influenced by the growing environment. For example, leaf color (intensity, distribution or both) of ornamental crops such as purple fountain grass is a key component that often influences the consumer’s perception and ultimately an impulse purchase. The red or purple pigmentation of purple fountain grass leaves is […]

Read More
WaterPulse retail mats can help cut water use in retail settings

August 10, 2015

Technology Provides Solutions For Growing In Drought

In April, California Gov. Jerry Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to institute reductions in cities and towns across the state with the goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. The announcement comes following the lowest snowpack ever recorded in the High Sierra. It was the first time in state history that action was taken to implement mandatory water restrictions. In May, the farmers in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta agreed to reduce their water use by 25 percent in exchange for assurance that they will not face further curtailment during the June to September growing season. Their proposal was approved by the State Water Resources Control Board. Growers who participate in the program could opt to either reduce water diversions under their riparian rights by 25 percent, or fallow 25 percent of their land. Given these conditions, growers and retailers are in need of methods and […]

Read More
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. TrueLeaf.net Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More
Heating Feature image

July 27, 2015

In Hot Pursuit Of Heating Trends For The Greenhouse

From biomass boilers to hydronic-heating systems, growers have a range of options to fit their operation’s unique needs. Here’s what five manufacturers had to say about the latest trends.

Read More
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

June 23, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

The size of a greenhouse operation is one of the biggest factors when determining the type of electrical system to install. Part 2 of "Don't Let Your Electrical System Come Up Short" covers locating electrical wires, meeting electrical load demands and environmental considerations.

Read More
Schaefer-fan

June 23, 2015

Schaefer Ventilation Opens Distribution Center In Atlan…

Schaefer Ventilation Equipment, a manufacturer of ventilation and thermal comfort products, has opened a new distribution center in Atlanta, Ga., to increase efficiency and provide faster services to dealers. Additionally, the company has added a new staff member to its agricultural and horticultural division to help expand markets in Latin America.

Read More
HID Lighting System

June 18, 2015

Talking Shop: Using Lighting To Boost Beneficials

Peace Tree Farm was looking for a way to maintain beneficial insect populations through the winter. It found a potential solution through the use of rotating HID lighting.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Costa Farms Reduces Greenhouse Emissions With Solar Pow…

Costa Farms is seeking to make sustainability a top priority at its headquarters and two other buildings in Miami with the recent construction of new solar panels, which will replace 25 percent of the company's power usage with solar energy.

Read More
aquatrols

June 3, 2015

Aquatrols Renews Cooperative Research And Development A…

Aquatrols Corporation recently announced a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Dr. Matt Madsen and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The objective of the new CRADA is to further refine and evaluate surfactant seed coating technologies for use in wildfire rehabilitation, turf and pasture grasses, restoration species and other horticultural and agricultural systems. The three-year agreement renews a CRADA that Aquatrols first signed with the ARS in 2012. The original partnership has resulted in promising field and greenhouse trials, pending patents and initial steps toward commercialization of the surfactant seed coating technology. “We are very encouraged by the work that Dr. Madsen and his team have put together over the past three years,” says Aquatrols’ President and CEO Tracy Jarman. “This innovative technology has shown incredible potential with wide-ranging impacts in multiple industries. Aquatrols’ stated mission is to change the way the world grows and this technology has the […]

Read More
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More