December 10, 2012

Tips On Automating Simple Greenhouse Tasks

Anything that has an on/off switch or some sort of electro-mechanical action can be automated. Wander off to your local hardware store, pick up some mechanical timers, and you can automate a simple system in an afternoon. Automation is valuable because it saves time, and builds consistent, predictable cycles that promote quality growing. These days, both simple and sophisticated greenhouse automation is available to almost any grower with nearly any type of crop or budget. The cost of electronics has dropped steeply over the past decade. At the same time, software has become more powerful and sensors are vastly more sensitive. The challenge becomes picking out the right solution from a wide range of sometimes complementary and conflicting solutions. Dedicated Versus Integrated Let’s start with types of automation controls. Generally speaking, they fall into two kinds of controls. Dedicated controls manage only one system. A water timer on a hose […]

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December 3, 2012

Robotics Research At Vineland Focuses On Greenhouse Planting, Harvesting And Packaging

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario is working on three projects to develop automation robotics for the greenhouse production process. Vineland is reaching outside the industry for input on these projects, partnering with engineers in the automotive industry to gain insights into cutting-edge automation. Vineland’s Project Manager for Robotics John Van de Vegte is leading the three automation projects, which focus on reducing costs and improving quality in planting, harvesting and packaging. “We’re all challenged with the increasing cost of labor and fuel,” says Van de Vegte. “In order to be competitive, we have to find ways to innovate in that area. The program I’m running is tying automation into the horticulture industry.” Planting, Harvesting And Packaging Project One: Planting automation. Consolidating the separate tasks and requirements of seedling plug and tulip bulb replanting in one system, this machine will handle seedling plugs of multiple sizes, from small […]

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November 1, 2012

Pot-Moving Automation From Harvest Automation Tested At Metrolina

Metrolina Greenhouses is trialing robots from Harvest Automation for plant handling for indoor and outdoor production. Scroll down for video of the testing. Four units of the pot-moving robots are being tested by Metrolina, which is considering using them to consolidate and space remaining pots after shipments go out. The robots can also be used to respace in a tight configuration for collection, says Harvest Automation CEO Charlie Grinnell. Grinnell came from iRobot, the original innovators behind the vacuum robot Roomba, and are now taking up automation in horticulture. Harvest Automation has been testing the pot-moving robots for the last 18 months, working toward perfecting a model in which several smaller machines work together in teams. This way, small operations can buy just a few of the robots, while larger ones can buy more to serve a larger production area.  “We thought it would be a much better idea to […]

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October 24, 2012

Climate Control Innovator Bob Klaeser Dies

Wadsworth Control Systems issued the following statement in memory of Bob Klaeser: Bob Klaeser, who designed two of the most popular greenhouse controllers for Wadsworth Control Systems, the STEP 50 and the STEP 500, died on Oct. 12, 2012, in Arvada, Colo. He began working at Wadsworth Control Systems in 1970 by joining George Dean Sr. in the field pulling wire and doing installations for six-months prior to beginning his work designing automation equipment.  He designed Wadsworth’s first computerized greenhouse climate system in the mid 1980’s.  He later became a partner in Wadsworth with George Dean Jr. and remained so until his retirement in 2003. Bob was a graduate of the prestigious Electrical Engineering College at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, California.  He also held an accounting degree from Metropolitan State College in Denver. Upon retirement, Bob pursued his love of travel visiting China, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand […]

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October 5, 2012

New Plasma Lighting Technology Grows Nutritious Vegetables

Chameleon Grow Systems announced the release of its commercial Solar Genesisplasma horticulture lighting, which third-party research shows produces better veggies than traditional greenhouse lighting. “We have been testing this light source for the past three years, and the full-spectrum nutritional light-energy produced by plasma lighting has produced excellent results,” says Chris Pieser, founder and president. “What differentiates us from the other manufacturers of plasma lighting is our proprietary reflector design, camera quality glass and the optical glass coating incorporated into our products.” Plasma lighting technology is in a constant state of development. By the end of the year, the light output will double, making it better suited to take on the massive job of lighting greenhouses. “We are focused on third-party scientific research to validate this technology and will not recommend our product until we are certain that plasma lighting is the right fit for the grower’s application,” Pieser says. […]

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September 6, 2012

Heating The Greenhouse: New Products And Custom Solutions

Smart heating can mean higher quality plants and lower heating costs. Take a look at these new introductions and custom solution options that could help you improve your production setup. Click on Next Page to see these new heating solutions.

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September 5, 2012

Smart Greenhouse Heating Saves Money

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, it’s a perfect time to start thinking about how to reduce your energy consumption this winter. There are a number of relatively simple methods you can use. The installation of thermal energy curtains has been popular in recent years due to the substantial energy savings associated with them. They can serve double duty in the spring and summer as retractable shade curtains. Energy curtains can be expensive. For example, a grower installed a 40-foot-by-78-foot energy curtain for the price of $12,000. If the grower heats the greenhouse without the curtain from January 1 to May 31 at a temperature of 65°F, it would cost almost $24,000 to heat. With the curtain, it only costs about $17,000. At the time of installation, heating oil cost $3.10 per gallon. The grower saved about $6,600 per year, making the payback on investment in less than […]

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August 6, 2012

How To Reduce Cart Theft

At the end of the growing season, greenhouses are empty. Benches are bare. The huge stacks of empty containers waiting to be filled have dwindled down to just a few. Growers are usually relieved to find most of their inventory gone. But anxiety can build about the thousands of shipping carts that growers lose in a single season because of theft. Most theft occurs when carts left at retail during the selling season simply disappear. With the higher prices recyclers pay for scrap metals, metal rolling carts have become easy pickings for thieves who want quick cash.Growers, cart rental companies and cart manufacturers have implemented some programs to cut down on these thefts that directly affect your bottom line. Big Grower Takes Precautions Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., has experienced its share of cart losses. Manager Michael Van Wingerden estimates that the company loses 750 to 1,000 carts a year […]

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August 2, 2012

Products To Help Increase Productivity

Metazet/Formflex The new M-TRACK RFID from Metazet/Formflex has an on-board PLC-Touch screen and RFID reader. The M-Track RFID is an internal transportation system, based on an automated induction-led RFID Tractor. It is designed to transport a train of carts. With a minimum of hard wiring, it can be combined with packing/shipping systems to give customized routings within the greenhouse and for multiple stops. McConkey Engineered by McConkey and designed to meet growers’ specifications, KONG carts are the ideal solution for any grower or retailer upgrading their cart fleet. McConkey’s engineers will design a cart based on individual formats, with the option of adding the grower’s logo to each removable part to help prevent theft.KONG is th e only truly customizable cart — customers have the option to pick and choose all features to their specifications. McConkey works with growers on format changes, maximizing truck space or replacing old […]

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August 2, 2012

Recycling Rainwater

Water recycling is not a new idea for greenhouse growers; many have done it for ages. But some growers are taking water recycling to a new level with 5-micron filter technology, ozonation and rainwater harvesting. These methods ensure that the water these growers use is the cleanest, most pure water available, allowing them to reduce pesticide and fungicide use, improve plant health and realize cost savings. And they’re also showing that thanks to rainwater catchment systems, it’s possible to be completely independent of city and ground water. Metrolina Greenhouses’ Quest To Improve Water Quality “Clean water is our number one chemical,” says Abe Van Wingerden of Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C. “Many growers miss that. They test their water quality and use chemicals to mitigate those problems. We do the opposite to reduce chemical usage.” Indeed, the Van Wingerdens have been on a quest to improve their water quality over […]

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July 20, 2012

Grow Better Plants With Horizontal Airflow Fans

Horizontal airflow (HAF) fans are used to mix warm air near the roof of the greenhouse with the cooler air at ground level, providing a more uniform growing environment Often referred to as mixing or circulation fans, HAF fans are not the same as ventilation fans and should not be run at the same time. It is also important to remember that despite many of the benefits of using HAF fans, improper installation and maintenance can greatly reduce these benefits. Uniform Temperature Is A Big Benefit One of the greatest benefits of using HAF fans is increased temperature uniformity. As air moves from one side and back up the other in a horizontal pattern, mixing occurs from side to side and from floor to ceiling.Temperature variation, however, can also occur vertically within a greenhouse from floor to ceiling with or without HAF fans. In order to quantify this phenomenon, researchers […]

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