A Day In The Life Of A Grower: 2020

Google Glass
Google Glass

Remember when the year 2020 was thought of as the distant future, complete with dreams of flying cars and walking holograms? It’s hard to believe that 2020 is now only six years away, and we’re still a far cry from the futuristic world promised in the science-fiction stories we read growing up.

Yet, at the current rate of technological advancement and the drive to automate business processes to improve efficiencies, there are sure to be many changes for growers in the next few years. Those efficiencies will be necessary as we predict consumer flower sales to at least double by the year 2020, due in part to industry initiatives such as Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Summit, which aim to create programs that appeal to the younger generation of consumers. This demand will drive greenhouse operations to be more productive and efficient.

What exactly will the greenhouse business of the future look like? What progress will make a greenhouse’s day-to-day operations more streamlined, accurate and cost-effective? Looking to the year 2020, here are some predictions of a grower’s typical day, including the types of tools that could be available.

eGlasses: The Greenhouse Tool Of 2020

First, let’s talk about the tool we believe will drive much of the new technology for growers in the future. With the invention of Google Glass in the present day, we can expect to see vast improvements to hardware and software. Currently, Google Glass allows users to essentially wear a computer like a pair of glasses (eGlasses), with a transparent display screen that projects information directly to the user’s eye while being controlled primarily by voice activation. Regardless of whether this hardware is made by Google or another company, we foresee eGlasses becoming the norm by 2020, especially for productivity enhancement. The applications for such a device in a greenhouse are nearly limitless due to the portable nature of the glasses and the ability to control it completely hands-free.

Morning Routine

While enjoying a morning cup of coffee, the grower of the future will don a pair of eGlasses and see a greenhouse to-do list for that day, along with a readout of the greenhouse’s climate controls, all beamed to the device remotely. Since greenhouse climate can already be viewed and controlled through mobile phone apps, this advancement is certainly not a great stretch of the imagination. This device allows growers to go about their morning routine hands-free.

Once the tweaking of climate controls is complete, it’s time to give the assistant growers their tasks for the day through voice commands on the eGlasses. By the time the grower arrives at the greenhouse, everyone has their responsibilities assigned for the day.

Rather than carrying around walkie-talkies, employees receive their tasks over smart watches, which every employee wears. These watches display the next task to complete and expected time it will take to complete it. The watches contain a microphone and speakers, allowing for employees to communicate with one another. The watch also contains a location tracker, so the grower/manager can see where everyone is located within the greenhouse at any given time.

Daily Checks

Walking through the greenhouse, the grower can get a complete history of each bench by viewing a specialized bench tag through the eGlasses. All spray records, growth regulator applications, moisture levels, etc., are automatically compiled from the sensors inside the bench and displayed onscreen. The central computer system keeps track of what chemicals are used and when. In addition, the computer automatically calculates the projected crop timing for each bench, which takes into consideration chemical applications (that can have an impact on growing times). All of this information is displayed on the eGlasses for any bench the grower views.

Automated Actions

Recommended actions (if any) are displayed, which can always be overridden by the grower if desired. If there are no overrides, the system schedules the actions automatically. This saves the grower and workers countless hours of documenting and making crop adjustments.

The watering list for the day has become automatic — sensors in each bench measure the moisture content of pots and fertilizer levels. The sensor compares actual measurements with desired water content, along with EC levels, and waters accordingly. The weather forecast for the next two days is considered by the computer so no bench will become too dry or stay too wet.

PGRs and pesticides are applied through pre-programmed spray booms that are connected via chemical lines to the mixing tanks in the chemical room. The booms run along a track to spray the appropriate benches. The boom and its lines are automatically purged and cleaned at the end of the program cycle, then the next chemical is mixed, with the process repeating itself until all crops have received their PGRs and pesticides.

Specialized Tools For Growers

Soil samples are no longer sent out, as the grower now has a handheld device that measures each element contained in the soil. This information is quickly transmitted to the office computer for analysis. Pythium and other pathogens are also detected, if present.

Within the fertilizer is a harmless tracing agent that becomes exposed when a pest feeds on a plant. The tracing agent can only be seen through special glasses. This gives the grower an instant overview of pest populations that can either be controlled with pesticides or with biological predators. Biological predators are ordered directly through the eGlasses; no consultant is needed, and orders are processed and sent out next day. No pest needs to go unchecked.

The propagation range is more intensely monitored. Sensors for damp-off and botrytis are strategically placed throughout the range and warnings are sent directly to the smart watch of the assistant grower who is closest, so they can immediately react to any spread of such issues. Temperature, humidity and light levels are constantly monitored. The climate control system is designed to instantly compensate for any changes so seedlings are not put through any stress whatsoever.

The grower is also monitored — there is a location sensor on the eGlasses that indicates whether he or she has visited each range every day. If by 4:00 p.m. there is a range that wasn’t visited, a reminder is displayed on the eGlasses.

Despite the technological advancements we’ll see in the future, there will never be a total replacement for the human senses. A grower must view the crops daily and not be totally dependent on technology.

All inventory is monitored and tracked through advanced RFID tags. The central computer system will know when the plant leaves the greenhouse and will update inventory levels. Through inventory systems that are integrated with garden centers, growers will know when their plants are sold to the end consumer. This gives total visibility of supply and demand and allows the setting of automatic reorder points, which ties into the growing schedule.

As 3D printers are already becoming widespread in today’s world, in 2020 they will be commonplace. 3D printers are used to create solid objects using an additive layering process, and will be used in a greenhouse to create print parts and pieces. Clips for shading/vents, irrigation parts, potting machine parts, etc., will all be available for printing. This allows for very little downtime when a machine is broken. No more waiting for small parts to arrive from the distributor. The grower can now print the necessary parts immediately and get the machines up and running. Keep in mind that with all this mechanization within the greenhouse, being able to quickly service these machines will be crucial.

Greenhouse Energy And Waste Recycling

The greenhouse of the future will need to cut energy costs and improve efficiency to stay competitive. One limitless source of energy is obviously solar. Currently, MIT researchers are working on high-efficiency transparent solar panels, which capture some light wavelengths into a solar cell while still allowing some to get through. We could see this technology being built into greenhouse glass and greenhouse poly to create a huge surface area that can gather solar energy. The shading system is also built into the layers of glass or poly, which serves two purposes. First, it will automatically darken and lighten depending on the desired crop light levels. Second, when it darkens, it allows more light to be captured into the solar cells, which can then be used to power the greenhouse.

Recycling of wasted resources will also be very important, from both an environmental and cost-savings perspective. Fossil fuels will obviously still be used six years from now, but we will be running lower on supply, and prices will surely reflect that fact. Today’s technologies will be improved upon, leading to more efficient heat-storage tanks, as well as large storage batteries, that store any excess unused energy and deliver it back to the greenhouse at night when it is needed. Waste water purifying technology will also be improved upon, and any waste water will be decontaminated and pumped back into the greenhouse.

The End Goal

There are clearly far more possibilities for the greenhouse business of the future than those listed above. With 2020 in the not-so-distant future, we can examine current trends that tell us what life as a future grower will look like.
For example, greenhouse structures themselves are continuing to become wider and taller, and older structures are often torn down in favor of newer, more efficient and technologically advanced greenhouse ranges. At the end of the day, the goal of utilizing technology in the greenhouse is to save time and improve accuracy as a means to maintain profitability in this industry. The future promises many new ways to help achieve that goal.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “A Day In The Life Of A Grower: 2020

More From Structures...

April 22, 2018

New LED Toplighting System From Philips is Optimized for Roses

Available for European rose growers, the GreenPower LED system features a light spectrum designed for cut rose cultivation, leading to bigger buds and heavier stems.

Read More

April 12, 2018

New Automatic Guided Vehicle Helps Move Product Around the Greenhouse

The Lowpad is less than 5 inches tall and is designed to navigate the greenhouse floor safely and freely.

Read More

April 11, 2018

Rough Brothers’ New Sales Manager Eager to Use Design Experience to Help Growers With New Projects

Shane Nitschke, the new Sales Manager of Rough Brothers’ Southeastern region, says his previous experience in commercial design will be a valuable resource in helping growers carry their own greenhouse vision to reality.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 11, 2018

Rough Brothers’ New Sales Manager Eager to Use Design E…

Shane Nitschke, the new Sales Manager of Rough Brothers’ Southeastern region, says his previous experience in commercial design will be a valuable resource in helping growers carry their own greenhouse vision to reality.

Read More

April 10, 2018

How to Decide Whether to Build a New Greenhouse Structu…

Is it time for you to update your greenhouse structure? Follow this tips from L.L. Klink to help you decide whether it’s better to retrofit an existing structure or build a new one.

Read More

April 5, 2018

Building Custom Solutions With L.L. Klink

Through its vertically integrated family of businesses and collaboration with greenhouse manufacturers and equipment suppliers, L.L. Klink Greenhouse Solutions works with growers and institutions to design, build, maintain, and furnish greenhouse structures.

Read More

March 30, 2018

The Latest in Structures: New Greenhouse Systems Offer …

Structures manufacturers and suppliers say their grower customers are asking for new models that can accommodate a diverse crop mix, while providing flexibility in design, maintenance, and control of the environment. Here’s a closer look at some of the latest options.

Read More

December 18, 2017

How to Make Sure Your Greenhouse Can Withstand Heavy Sn…

Heavy snow loads can cause greenhouse structures to collapse if proper snow removal techniques are not practiced or extra support is not provided.

Read More

November 15, 2017

Tips on Adding Heat to Your Greenhouse for the Winter

Heating your greenhouse for the winter is important, and choosing efficient equipment and designs can help you quickly get returns on your heating investments.

Read More

November 14, 2017

Smart Solar Greenhouses Designed to Generate Energy and…

Research at the University of California Santa Cruz has shown that the first crops of tomatoes and cucumbers grown inside electricity-generating solar greenhouses are as healthy as those raised in conventional greenhouses.

Read More
BrightFarms Ohio

October 18, 2017

Leafy Greens Grower BrightFarms Building New 120,000 Sq…

The operation will provide locally grown salad greens and herbs to supermarkets in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH, metropolitan areas.

Read More
Rough Brothers HopsHouse

October 18, 2017

New Greenhouse Aimed at Hydroponic Hops Producers

The new greenhouse model is the first single-solution hydroponic greenhouse for year-round hops growth, and harvests anywhere from two to five times a year.

Read More
GVZ Glasshouses

October 12, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
Youngs Greenhouse Space Growing Feature

August 14, 2017

How Young’s Plant Farm Invests in New Structures and Eq…

The Auburn, AL-based Top 100 Grower operation is improving its production infrastructure so it can continue to efficiently produce quality plants and keep up with demand.

Read More
CS3 Greenhouse (Stuppy)

June 4, 2017

7 Factors That Can Determine the Cost of Building a New…

Want to know the main factors that determine the cost of building a new greenhouse? Phil Bishop of Stuppy has put together an overview of the expenses involved in this type of project.

Read More
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

May 28, 2017

Growers Offer Advice on What to Know Before Your Next B…

Two Top 100 Growers discuss their most recent building projects, the challenges they addressed, and what they learned during the process.

Read More
GGS Cannabis Production

April 19, 2017

Suppliers Can Offer Technical Solutions for New Cannabi…

Here’s a look at how a few manufacturers have partnered with growers to make their transition into cannabis a smooth one, whether it’s through hands-on guidance or partnering with other industry leaders.

Read More
GrowSpan Series 1000 Greenhouse (GrowSpan) feature

March 24, 2017

New Greenhouse Structure Models Emphasize Crop Protecti…

Manufacturers of new structure models say they are responding to grower concerns with designs that focus on ventilation, maximizing your space, and incorporating a wide range of crops. Here’s a look at some of their latest offerings.

Read More
Brian Munchel

March 18, 2017

Brian Munchel of Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing Dies at …

Munchel, a long-time member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturing Association, worked at Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing for more than 30 years and was a computer-aided draftsman.

Read More
Nexus Atrium for Prides Corner

March 15, 2017

How Tech Suppliers Are Helping Growers Find Solutions

Greenhouse structures and components manufacturers highlight some of their most recent projects.

Read More

February 15, 2017

Growers Planning to Invest in Structures in 2017

Data from this year’s Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry survey indicates that growers are planning to make major investments in structures and facility upgrades this year.

Read More