Greenhouse Technology |The Future of High-Technology Farming.

Greenhouse agriculture has grown extremely popular in all parts of the world. It developed in the 13th century as a means to fulfill the gastronomic needs of royalty. Hundreds of years ago, greenhouse farming was also utilized to cultivate medicinal plants and herbs.

Today, whole university teams are devoted to the scientific research of greenhouse growing. Coupled with recent advancements in agricultural technology, greenhouse farming has become a more and more productive and profitable agribusiness enterprise.

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Food scientists inspecting tomatoes on plants in the Greenhouse (Image Credit: Getty Images)

What is Greenhouse Farming?

Greenhouse farming is the technique of growing crops and vegetables in a greenhouse. Doing so usually enables farmers to improve their performance and yields while increasing the quality of goods. Greenhouse farming protects crops from external dangers such as specific pests and severe weather occurrences.

Greenhouse agriculture also grows fruits and vegetables native to warmer climates in its colder equivalents – for example, growing tomatoes in a greenhouse in Norway.

In greenhouses, the light, ventilation, humidity, and temperature can all be regulated. This enables the farmer to design and supply optimal micro-ecosystems for their plants, helping them grow strong, beautiful, nutritious and tasty.

Why Cultivate and Grow in a Greenhouse?

Well-implemented greenhouses in a controlled environment may be a low-cost option to improve farmers’ production and profitability in nations with harsher climates. They also serve as an excellent vehicle for expanding one’s agricultural or gardening horizons and increasing the quality of their harvests.

However, not all crops are suitable to be grown in greenhouses. Typically, yields that perform well in greenhouses need warm growing conditions or susceptible ones and survive only in a very narrow range of environmental factors.

For example, tomatoes.

Tomatoes are considered a mainstay in most western – and even some Eastern – cuisines. Yet, some crops are fragile and need a massive lot of attention to detail to grow appropriately.

For their tomatoes to flourish, the farmer must consider the soil type, the quality of the soil, and the typical ambient temperature.

The soil must be wet enough to enable roots to grow through it and sustain the fruits, but not so inundated that it drowns the plant. Tomatoes prefer temperatures no higher than 25° to 27°C. Anything over that, and the plant will not bear fruit properly.

So what does this have to do with greenhouses? The simplest option is to utilize a controlled environment such as a greenhouse to attain these exact and particular circumstances.

In addition to ensuring the fragile crops are appropriately cared for, greenhouses help protect crops from pests and unexpected changes in weather patterns. This is especially important in areas where the weather is prone to change quickly in short periods. Some crops are not robust enough to effectively deal with such dramatic changes in the environment so rapidly and thus perform considerably better under the protection of a greenhouse.

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(Image Credit: Getty Images)

What Should a Greenhouse Have?

What a farmer should put in their facility actually relies first and foremost on what crops they will be growing in that greenhouse. Every plant has distinct circumstances they flourish in; therefore, the facility should be optimized for those.

However, certain common elements need to form a part of every greenhouse, or at least be considered.

Location

Arguably the most vital decision Is where the facility or plant house will be located. It has to be in a position that gets adequate sunlight and is suitably sheltered from the wind but is not in the path of any falling leaves from trees that could dirty or obscure the frame.

Also, remember that at least 2 feet of access space around the facility is typically required for cleaning and making repairs.

Sunlight

Greenhouses should nevertheless let in enough sunlight to enable plants to photosynthesize. This is how plants receive their energy – without light, there is no yield. The advice from experienced farmers appears to be 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, with at least 45 per cent – 60 per cent humidity in the air.

Foundations

Finally, the greenhouse will, of course, need a strong, durable flat foundation – no placing it directly into the soil! Paving slabs are the ideal option, and they may be wetted in the summer to maintain the air humidly.

Main material

Even while greenhouses are usually constructed of glass, modern models are also available in various materials such as plastics and polycarbonates. Deciding what material you’d want your conservatory to be built of is a vital decision.

Glass is the clearest and allows in the lightest overall. It also lasts the longest and is the most readily replaced in terms of single panels. However, it is also the most prone to breaking. Plastics and polycarbonates are much less prone to shatter but don’t allow light in as efficiently and are generally more costly choices.

Glazing

The second important point to consider is that glazing will have varied insulation qualities, so some may be more appropriate for certain climates than others. Polycarbonate sheeting tends to insulate well; thus, less heat will be wasted from your greenhouse. This will be helpful if your garden is in a very excellent location.

Temperature & Heating

It is suggested that average ambient temperatures should not exceed 20°C during the day and should not dip below 7°C in the evening. A greenhouse’s most effective heating option is an electric fan heater coupled with a propagator and a thermostat. Bubble insulation also offers extra warmth at a reduced cost.

Electric costs

Firstly, it must be determined if this will be an electric greenhouse or not. If so, then putting it up as near the house as feasible will lead to cheaper electricity installation.

The Advantages of Greenhouse Farming

There are many advantages to greenhouse farming, including:

Extending the growing season

Greenhouse farming’s most significant advantage is that it frees crops from being slaves to the natural cycles of the seasons. With the capacity to control the environment, greenhouse farmers can grow crops year-round rather than be restricted by the seasons.

Additionally, various methods may be used to maintain a constant temperature and prolong the growing season of any particular crop. One prevalent technique is to utilize natural materials that absorb, store, and release thermal heat to encourage vigorous growth early in the season.

Protection against severe weather events

No matter how hard the rain is outside or how low the temperatures have dropped, the plants stay safe in their greenhouse paradise. No matter how intense the sun or how dry the environment is, the crops remain wet. There is no need to worry about seasonal changes since the vegetables may grow undisturbed in their greenhouse.

Growing crops in off-season (= higher earnings)

Prices of fruits and vegetables vary throughout the year to reflect their relative abundances on the market. When supplies are plentiful, crops in the height of their season will sell for less than they do in the low season.

However, when growing in a greenhouse, supply is consistent all year round. A more extensive range of crops may be developed throughout the entire year, increasing the profits. A greenhouse is a fantastic method to set yourself up with higher crop availability when the market has a limited supply, allowing you to charge a premium for your product.

Pest control

The most significant risks to crops in traditional farming are arguably times of drought, closely followed by pests. Greenhouse farming allows farmers to carefully control what gets in and what goes out of the greenhouse. In this manner, pest control becomes simpler and confined, reducing their harmful effect on the crops.

Increasing production efficiency

Growing year-round, combined with the capacity to keep track of how resources are utilized and manage them appropriately, makes greenhouse agriculture a highly efficient system when installed and managed correctly.

The Disadvantages of Greenhouse Farming

As with any effort, greenhouse farming also has its disadvantages. For example, it is considerably approximately 260 per cent more costly to grow crops in a greenhouse than in traditional outside agriculture. Here are some additional disadvantages to consider weighing up before diving in with both feet:

High upfront costs and lack of investment

Getting started with a greenhouse farm needs a significant financial commitment upfront, which most individuals do not have to hand. Therefore, most individuals seek external financing to start their agricultural business. However, investments in agriculture are not nearly what they are for fintech.

Despite the potential that agricultural advancements like greenhouse farming provide, the investing world still lags behind the trends. The financing accessible to entrepreneurs following agricultural routes and professions are still very restricted, regrettably. There are a few possible explanations for this:

  • Lack of technological certainty
  • The timing of a greenhouse farm return does not fit the traditional holding time of 5 years that private equity companies anticipate from a new company.
  • The size of the market isn’t regarded as significant enough. Yes, everyone eats, but is the consumer demand for the actual product your farm produces high sufficient to force influential companies like supermarkets to alter their buying programs? Unlikely.

This is a short-term issue. As the technology develops and thus returns are enhanced and more consistent, investors will join the sector more comprehensively.

Ongoing operating expenses

Do not underestimate the expenses needed to operate the greenhouse farm after it is set up. To make sure you utilize the greenhouse to the most of its potential, you will need to invest in supplies that can last a long time (learn about automation in farming here) (read about automation in agriculture here).

Particularly where heating is involved – if not adequately assessed before installation, you may be facing considerably more costly monthly energy bills than required with equipment that could have been somewhat more expensive upfront but more energy efficient in the long term.

The lack of pollination

As stated before, greenhouse farming comes to even better control over your plants. However, occasionally, certain plants may contain pests such as whiteflies, which can spread rapidly to the rest of the crops.

Additionally, it is worth considering that there is no method for pollinators to access your crops. This may be a drawback to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what type of plants you’re attempting to grow in the greenhouse.

Final Word

In essence, greenhouse farming is a fantastic option when you’re seeking to grow specific crops that are maybe more delicate than others, require a bit additional warmth, protection from pests, or severe weather conditions.

With the potential to extend growing seasons, grow crops in the off-season, and grow crops that would not thrive in the local climate without greenhouse farming, greenhouse agriculture presents a unique opportunity for farmers to increase their profit margins if they play the supply and demand game correctly.

Also Read : Top Trends in medical devices.
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