Greenhouses have been used to extend crop seasons for centuries, but today’s greenhouses are very different from those of the past. They use smart technologies to ensure optimal growing conditions, improve plant health, and increase yields. Read on to find out about some of the trending greenhouse tech in 2020 to see how far farmers and growers have come from the unadorned glass buildings of the past.
More farmers and horticulturalists than ever are switching over to hydroponic systems. These systems use a sterile growth medium fed by a water-based plant food solution to minimize pests, ensure proper nutrient concentrations, and maximize growth and yields. Learn more about hydroponic systems over at Agron to get started making the switch.
Reduced Energy Consumption
Under the influence of the USDA energy grant programs, reducing energy use has been a major trend in the greenhouse segment for quite some time. With easy availability of funding, the focus has been on replacement of lighting, controls, heating and irrigation systems with more efficient equipment. In the recent days, we have seen more and more greenhouses reducing their energy use with the help of better insulation, natural ventilation, energy/shade screens and alternate fuel heating systems. Powered greenhouses are going green in 2020. They’re being designed using high-efficiency glazing and natural ventilation systems and often feature energy-efficient heating, lighting, irrigation, and control systems. Many are also outfitted with solar panels to power lights, fans, and more. This is a good trend to follow since reducing energy consumption can also reduce farmers’ and growers’ monthly bills.
Modern smart greenhouses also take advantage of complex AI systems designed to optimize growth. Irrigation systems can now be set to measure soil moisture content using remote sensors and apply water as needed, lights can be set to timers to turn themselves on and off to supplement sunlight during darker seasons, and systems for spacing plants and harvesting crops are becoming commonplace. Automating greenhouse production can both increase yields and decrease labor costs, so it’s a great option for large-scale growers and commercial farmers.
Greenhouse irrigation systems used to drain directly to the surrounding environment, contributing to nitrification and causing a lot of water and nutrients alike to be wasted. Many modern hydroponic and even soil-based greenhouse systems now recycle irrigation water by filtering it and reintroducing it into the system. This helps to conserve water in dry areas and removes problems with runoff associated with conventional greenhouse growing practices.
Greenhouse growing provides a perfect environment for organic crops. Since it’s easier to control the growing environment, pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies are less common, especially in hydroponic systems, which eliminates the need for chemical insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Soil-based growers are moving toward using healthy, living soil, and even hydroponic and soil-less media systems are trending toward using more organic materials and components. That’s good news for farmers, consumers, and the environment, alike.
Improved Supplemental Lighting
Greenhouse growers have been supplementing natural lighting for decades. In 2020, they’re switching in large numbers to more energy-efficient supplemental lighting sources like LED lights. This allows greenhouse growers and indoor farmers to grow plants throughout the winter when the natural cycle of the sun would otherwise pose a barrier to healthy crop growth.
Most commercial greenhouses used to be found in farm country. Today, more farmers and growers are moving their operations to city centers. This is largely due to the fact that improvements in energy efficiency and technology have made it more feasible to set up rooftop greenhouses and make more efficient use of small spaces.
Especially useful in the case of drip irrigation, fertgation involves simultaneous application of fertilizers and water through the irrigation system. Today’s advanced systems make it possible for the growers to ensure increasingly precise applications of nutrients in liquid form and water to greenhouse crops. This not only maximizes growth by optimizing plant nutrition, but also reduces potentially expensive waste and negative impact to the environment. All excess water and liquid fertiliser that remains unutilized by the crop roots is collected and sterilized by these systems before they are reapplied in the next scheduled fertigation.
The Bottom Line
Technology has been advancing at incredible rates across all industries in recent years, and agriculture is no exception. Stay up-to-date with modern greenhouse growing techniques and technologies to find out what the future might bring.