How One Grower Is Heating His Greenhouses This Year

To combat the single largest expense of owning and operating greenhouses, Dick Kearley of Robrick Nursery in Hawthorne, Fla., looked to the forest.

“I was inspired by the rising cost of fuel to find some sort of alternative,” Kearley says. “Then I began looking at wood for the alternative.”

When he first began looking at conventional wood-burning stoves, Kearley found the price to be astounding. Instead of paying around $30,000 for the equipment, he came up with a plan to go with something basic and low-tech. With a water stove, the simplified unit is essentially a fire box surrounded by water. The heat gets transferred to the walls and the water heats the greenhouse.

His initial problem appeared to be solved, but after using the water stoves for two to three years, Kearley wanted to improve efficiency. He had been learning about wood gasification, the process of converting organic materials into carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane by reacting it at high temperatures.

Kearley thought this could be a good way to address the heating and efficiency issues. At that time, however, no one was willing or able to build a gasifier that could heat a greenhouse.

“Many people didn’t feel like it was worth it to build one,” Kearley says. “So I took what I was reading and went out to go build one.”

What Kearley ended up with was a piece of equipment that used unprocessed wood to gasify the greenhouse with a water heater backup. If the gasification failed, vents could be opened so the water heater would heat the greenhouse conventionally.

With his new design, Kearley saw savings of 80 percent. Although that figure is normally the attention-grabber, there is another number to keep in mind: the nursery owner estimates that 75 percent of the heat is generated by the gas and the other 25 percent comes from the fire box.

“It gives me goosebumps every time it lights up,” says Kearley.

Another benefit Kearley sites is creating minimal fuel waste. Whereas a coal-burning model might create 40 to 50 pounds of charcoal, the gasification stove turns out a mere 20 pounds of ash. The reduced smoke output also makes the stove a much greener option.

One positive that surprised the amateur inventor was how “controllable” his stove would be. Working like a conventional home oven, the gasification stove cycles its heat.

“It doesn’t cycle as fast as the home oven, but it does the same thing,” he says. “It might pop on and off every 20 minutes or so. It shuts off and turns back on quickly. The new stove is far better in that regard.”

There is one potential downside to the gasification stove, however: cost. Although Kearley kept the specific price point a secret – he doesn’t want anyone clamoring for him to build one for their greenhouse – he notes that the price tag might make some greenhouse owners sweat.

“I will say that this stove would cost more because it has more steel. It’s a complicated structure; it has 14,000 pounds of steel and 200 pounds of welding wire,” Kearley says.

Learn more about Robrick Nursery at www.robrick.com.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “How One Grower Is Heating His Greenhouses This Year

  1. I'd really like to see more about the heating system using wood for fuel and water pipes to hold the heat….any pictures of this fellows system????

  2. The trick for gasification is to keep the fuel particle size consistent.

    Wood chips are the most common fuel; and they need to go through a drum sorter.

    That means having a huge source of wood chips or your own hog mill.

Latest Stories
Suntory Blue Rose Applause

October 21, 2017

Suntory’s Blue Rose ‘Applause’ Now Available to U.S. Fl…

‘Applause’ was originally introduced to the U.S. in 2011, and since then it was been successfully tested and selected to meet new market conditions.

Read More
Luxflora Paris Trip

October 20, 2017

Luxflora Paris Trip Offers Insights on Trends Shaping H…

Each year, Luxflora hosts an international trip that allows participants to gain insights on trends and gather inspiration that ultimately will shape and support our industry in many ways. This year’s event took the group to Maison & Objet and Design Week in the City of Lights – Paris, France.

Read More
Capitol Hill_ feature

October 19, 2017

AmericanHort’s Main Priorities After Impact Washi…

Now that Impact Washington is over, AmericanHort, with industry support, is looking to continue its focus on tax reform, labor reform, and research and innovation.

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
Petal It Forward 2017

October 17, 2017

Petal It Forward Event a Hit for Both Industry Members …

Check out how this year’s Petal It Forward event brought smiling faces to people across the country, including one personal story.

Read More

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
NatureFresh Chili Dog

October 17, 2017

NatureFresh Farms Uses Pest-Detecting Dog to Sniff out …

Knowing that many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, the company figured it was possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.

Read More
Researchers Study Rose Varieties

October 17, 2017

Rose Rosette Update: Research into Detection and Manage…

Halfway through a five-year, $4.6 million grant to combat rose rosette disease in the U.S., a national research team is encouraged by the amount of information learned, but admits having a way to go before finding how to overcome the deadly problem.

Read More
Seville Production Line

October 17, 2017

Production Technology Conference Tour Attendees See Tec…

AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference in Dallas, TX, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 10, with a tour of three local production facilities.

Read More
Botrytis Symptoms on Leaves

October 17, 2017

How One Grower is Battling Botrytis with a New Biologic…

CropKing in Lodi, OH, recently began using a new beneficial fungus in its fight against Botrytis in its greenhouse tomatoes. So far, the results have been promising.

Read More
TTA PackPlanter S-2

October 16, 2017

TTA Introduces New Transplanter Suited for Smaller Grow…

The PackPlanter S has 16 grippers and a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 plugs per hour in a small frame.

Read More
Karen Reardon, RISE

October 15, 2017

Karen Reardon of RISE Honored by CropLife America

CropLife America presented Reardon with its highest staff award for her successful effort to defend against the ban of pesticide use on private property in Maryland.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More
Whitefly adult

October 13, 2017

Researchers Continue to Keep Close Tabs on Whitefly

Dr. Lance Osborne of the University of Florida and Dr. Cindy McKenzie of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are evaluating insecticide efficacy and the impact of product rotations on whitefly biotype populations.

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
Mark Schneid

October 11, 2017

Bayer’s New Head of Environmental Science Has Roots in …

Mark Schneid says one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is the constantly evolving customer — particularly among millennials.

Read More
TreetownUSA

October 10, 2017

Houston-Based TreeTown USA Acquires Village Nurseries

With the addition of the new West Coast division, which will continue to operate under its trade name of Village Nurseries, TreeTown USA will now encompass 16 farm locations throughout California, Texas, and Florida, with more than 4,000 acres in production.

Read More