Tag: automated controls

Argus Customer Success Story | Midwest Groundcovers Grows With Automation

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 exhibitor Argus Controls shares this customer success story:

Experienced nursery technicians know they can’t water a native perennial at the same rate and frequency as an evergreen or shrub. That’s why the average pop-up lawn sprinkler wouldn’t work in a professional growing environment. Managers at Midwest Groundcovers, LLC understood this. But,  they quickly realized that irrigation suppliers are not always on the same page.

Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Argus Controls Customer Success Story
Virgil Greenhouse Manager Chris Wacker (left) and Nursery Manager, Mike Krueger (right)

The company’s switch in 2016 to an automated irrigation system customized for a nursery environment has enabled efficiencies that they couldn’t achieve with a previous system designed for golf courses. A precise, easily programmable system is critical for this wholesale grower of nursery stock, including native plants, shrubs, evergreens, perennials and groundcovers, as it continues to expand.

Today, workers can focus on the plants instead of managing irrigation controllers thanks to the implementation of an automated system from Argus Controls. “It allows the grower to scout the plants more instead of trying to run all over the nursery opening and closing valves,” says Mike Krueger, Midwest Groundcover’s nursery manager at the Virgil location.

Stuck in the Sand Trap

Early experiences with automation systems don’t always go as planned. Whether it’s a factory or a greenhouse, initial deployments of “smart” technologies are either a boon to business operations or an exercise in frustration.

For Midwest Groundcovers, it was the latter. The company struggled early on with an automated irrigation system at its Virgil production nursery, which opened in 2001. It was an unwieldy system that was difficult to program and manage, says Matthew Fredrickson, the company’s production manager.

“The irrigation system was programmed for a golf course,” Fredrickson recalls. “You would set it, walk away, and everything is watering the same. “What the system designers and engineers couldn’t understand is that we’re a nursery producing plants that are growing, and their need for water is changing throughout the season.”

What the company needed was a system that was easier to program to accommodate the unique needs of different types of plants.

Expansion Planning

In 2013, Midwest Groundcovers found a solution from Argus Controls that met its requirements. The Midwest team was embarking on a 30-acre outdoor expansion, called the Thomsen Growing Center, at its Virgil location to grow containerized shrubs.

The Argus system doesn’t require IT or automation expertise to program, Krueger says. The design made more sense for a grower, with zones and schedules customized for different planting sections. The management team also wanted irrigation controls that could work seamlessly with existing technologies, including the company’s customized fertigation system.

“They made sure the Argus system could talk to those injectors and that the programming was simple enough for a grower to use the system,” Krueger says. “Argus didn’t force us to buy their equipment. They worked around what we had.”

That was important because Midwest Groundcovers had already invested a considerable amount of money into its existing fertilization system, according to Krueger. Starting over with new fertilization injectors would have been costly. The system was up and running in time for the 2016 season.Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Customer Success Story 2

Fully Automated Future

The company was impressed enough with the Argus irrigation system to begin switching its automated controls to Argus, as well. In 2019, the company switched a portion of its environmental controls in its Virgil nursery greenhouse expansion to the Argus system.

By the end of 2021, the company will extend the automated control system to two growing centers, including a new one that’s under construction, and half of its greenhouses. Midswest Groundcovers’ goal in the future is to expand Argus to the rest of the existing growing centers in Virgil, so the Virgil nursery is standardized with one system. Moving forward, the company will include the Argus system in the design of any new greenhouses or growing shelters, Krueger says.

“We’re really satisfied with Argus,” he says. “We have tried and used several different systems for environmental controls, but we want to standardize the nursery. We like the Argus system and how it works, so for us it made sense for us to continue on that path.”

See what’s new from Argus Controls at the October 4-5, 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con and learn more by visiting the company’s website — www.arguscontrols.com

 

 

Argus: Automated Irrigation Techniques

Argus Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor News:

Argus Controls Seeding Knowledge video discusses irrigation techniques and the advantages of automating this process.  In the video Jeff Neff, Senior Applications Technician at Argus Controls, discusses considerations that can be important when deciding which system to choose.  He also covers advantages of automating this process.  Other topics include key considerations for implementing automated irrigation by using irrigation solutions for controls systems for horticulture, including greenhouse control systems and indoor control systems.

 

Irrigation is a necessary process for plant growth. While it can be done manually, automating this process could bring several benefits to growers. As with all types of automation, there are options to choose from, especially while using controlled environmental systems.

Computerized Control System for Horticulture

A fully computerized control system for horticulture incorporates all features of the simpler systems. It also adds support for a much wider range of input sensors, crop water use models. And,  most importantly, efficient irrigation system capacity management. Another approach, before considering a fully computerized controls system, consists of relying on sensors alone. This may not be the best method as they can, on occasion, fail. However, if they are combined with a modeling system, the result is optimal.

Another reason to use an automated system is the ability to include fertigation automation, which a simple solution normally cannot offer. One of the benefits of using an automated system is that it saves on labor costs by eliminating the need for employees to constantly monitor and water plants.

In addition to labor costs, hand watering could also affect the quality of the product. Using an automated system improves how production is controlled.

Using an automated system improves how production is controlled. On the other hand, there are certain applications where automated irrigation is not beneficial, such as in conservatories where there is a variety of plants, each with their own needs.

Factors To Consider

Automating irrigation in a horticultural facility is not an easy task. There are a number of factors to consider when planning and designing your irrigation or fertigation solution. Automating irrigation in a horticultural facility is not an easy task. There are a number of factors to consider when planning and designing your irrigation or fertigation solution.

Argus Controls has developed its own nutrient injection system that can provide anything from a single-tank formulation to many separate fertilizer recipes and feed strengths on the same irrigation system. This is all handled seamlessly by the Argus fertigation management software. Continuous improvement and development of solutions for the horticultural industry are a key and the future of irrigation controls promises more intricate, smarter systems with more sensitive sensors. This nutrient system has proven to be quite successful in diverse horticultural facilities, including when using Cannabis control systems.

For more Argus Indoor Ag-Con exhibitor news, check this site again soon or visit www.arguscontrols.com