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Tag: Greenhouse Grower

The Benefits Of Keeping Greenhouse Technology Simple

Sourced From Greenhouse Grower Magazine 

Greenhouse equipment should be simple for the end user. This was the topic of a blog post written earlier this year by Chris Higgins, General Manager and Co-owner of HortAmericas, a wholesale supply company. The main message offered by Higgins was that the most successful products should be easy to use, learn, operate, and maintain. Why does this matter? It affects how much money a grower can make, as smart purchases can lead a better return on investment (ROI).

Indoor Ag-Conversations Session Why Does GreenHouse Equipment Need To Be SimpleSo how can this relatively simple concept carry out across the controlled-environment industry? Higgins tried to tackle this topic with three market experts during a webinar in October that was part of the Indoor Ag-Conversations webinar series. Joining Higgins were Nadia Sabeh, President and Founder of Dr. Greenhouse, an HVAC design company; Paul Brentlinger, President of Crop King Inc., a greenhouse manufacturer and hydroponic supply company; and Isaac Van Geest of Zwart Systems, an irrigation company.

Together, the group offered several thoughts on how growers can make sure they are being smart in their equipment investments. Here are some of their top insights.

  • Every greenhouse location has its own unique properties, such as sunlight, temperature, and humidity, Sabeh says. Putting those together adds a level of complexity to any design process, but the end result will hopefully optimize the environment for the crop.
    “One thing we see is not a lot of focus on how systems interact with each other, like air flow and how it’s affected by fans, evaporative cooling pads, or screens,” Sabeh says. “Growers need to look at the entire system as a whole, not piece by piece.”
  • Plan ahead before working with your supplier, Van Geest says.
    “It’s important to know everything you need from the beginning,” Van Geest says. “We can then take all those things into account when planning a design.”
  • There’s so much new technology out there that it might create headaches when you try to sort it all out. The problem, Brentlinger says, is the equipment is not always as simple as it seems.
    “Technology get better every year, and you can always upgrade, but the design needs to stay simple,” Brentlinger says. “Our focus is on designing for simplicity to maximize return on investment. If we can’t show the ROI, we won’t suggest the system.”
  • Simplicity doesn’t change, even if the equipment does, according to Van Geest.
    “We have updated our boom controllers several times, but they still need to work in a simple way,” Van Geest says.
  • In too many cases, after the supplier leaves the job site, the grower is left to figure out how to fine tune the system, Sabeh says. The problem is that growers are not often prepared to operate on that level of complexity to maintain and monitor new high-tech equipment.
    “My concern with very advanced technology is that growers will take for granted the plants they have and the system they have,” Sabeh says. “They think they don’t need to be engaged. I still want growers to walk through the crop and scout, no matter how simple or complex their system is. You have to know how the plant responds to the system and vice versa.”
  • Simple does not mean sub-par; it means a well-engineered product that is easy to operate, Higgins says.
    “Simple should be a compliment to the engineer, as it implies that the product is designed well.”

Article by Brian D. Sparks, senior editor of Greenhouse Grower and See all author stories here.

Women In Agriculture Offer Advice and Inspiration

Greenhouse Grower Indoor Ag ConversationsGreenhouse Grower magazine and Indoor Ag-Conversations hosted a “Women in Agriculture” panel discussion in September. During the presentation, panelists focused on how women in agriculture can facilitate change. The program also highlighted how women can serve as examples for other women in the industry. Also discussesd, the challenges women face in the different sectors of the agriculture industry, and how to empower other women and inspire the next generation of women in agriculture.

The panel was moderated by Greenhouse Grower Editor Janeen Wright and Senior Editor Brian D. Sparks highlighted some of the tips our panelists shared in his October 27, 2020 article:

Surround Yourself with People Who Encourage You

Erika Summers, Sales Engineer at LMS Building Systems says when she first entered the engineering field, she quickly learned she had to prove herself.

“Fortunately, even though I was held to a higher standard by some, there were a lot of men who supported me and recognized the technical knowledge and skills I had,” Summers says. “Don’t feel like you have to remain in a non-supportive situation. Find a place where your expertise is valued.”

If you have experience in the market, it’s also important to be just as encouraging to the next generation.
“Take the time to talk to young women in your field and learn about their interests and what they want to do,” says Corinne Wilder, Vice President, Global Commercial Operations at Fluence By OSRAM. “Promote and nurture them and encourage them to offer their voice when change is needed.”

Promote Horticulture’s Multiple Career Options
You don’t need to have a green thumb to find your niche in the agriculture industry, and it’s important to emphasize this.

“With the growth in controlled-environment agriculture and scaled production of local produce, there are lots of angles to come into in this field,” says Amy Samples, Director of Community Outreach and People’s Programs at AppHarvest. “There’s a spot for you at this table if you’re willing to work hard.”

Use Social Media to Facilitate Connections

Career growth and networking resources such as LinkedIn can be helpful in both changing perceptions and encouraging career development.

“My favorite way to support women in agriculture is to connect them with each other, from one field to another,” says Charlotte Prud’Homme, Founder of Generation Permaculture Design.

Learn from the Past Experiences of Others

Each of the panelists recognized those women and men who inspired and motivated them. The key traits they share: patience, encouragement, and not being afraid to call for change when necessary.

“These women made their mark on the industry, and they encouraged me to do the same,” Summers says.