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GLASE consortium aims to improve greenhouse energy efficiency

Even though the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is New York-based, the research it is doing has the potential to impact controlled environment agriculture worldwide.

The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Albany, N.Y. The consortium will be conducting research to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations including reducing energy consumption.

 

 

The goal of the consortium is to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. Although the focus of the research will be on greenhouse production, the findings should also have application to indoor CEA production including vertical farms and warehouses. Greenhouses, which can be electricity-intensive depending on the level of automation, cover 720 acres in New York State. The consortium is looking to reduce greenhouse electricity use and concomitant carbon emission by 70 percent and to increase crop yields by 2030.

Erico Mattos, who was appointed executive director of GLASE in June, said he has been hired as a subcontractor by Cornell University and will be working to recruit industry members to join the consortium.

“Currently I have a 50 percent time appointment with GLASE,” Mattos said. “My time with GLASE will increase as we bring in industry members. I am living in Georgia, but will be moving to upstate New York over the next year and will be located between RPI in Albany and Cornell University in Ithaca.”

Mattos said GLASE is a seven-year project which has received $5 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The money will be used to sponsor research between Cornell and RPI.

“The team leaders who will be doing the research are Neil Mattson at Cornell University and Tessa Pocock at RPI,” said Mattos. “They have a set of more than 300 milestones that their teams have to reach. They have already achieved some of these milestones.”

The research activities include improving lighting fixtures and systems that synergistically control lighting, ventilation, humidity and carbon dioxide, improving CEA operations and reducing energy consumption to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry.

“The teams at Cornell and RPI are well equipped with the resources they need to achieve the milestones of the core research proposal that has been sponsored by NYSERDA,” he said. “Even though the teams led by Neil and Tessa are completely self-sustainable, they may require some outside partnerships to achieve some of the goals.”

The GLASE consortium is headed by researchers Tessa Pocock at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Neil Mattson at Cornell University and GLASE executive director Erico Mattos.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Mattos said in his role as executive director he will act as an intermediary between Cornell, RPI and NYSERDA making sure that the research is proceeding and that milestones are being completed on time.

“The most important part of my position is to create a consortium with industry members,” Mattos said. “The goal over the next seven years will be for the project to receive less money from NYSERDA and more money from industry members. We want to establish a consortium that is self-sustaining. By bringing in industry members we will have money to do our own-sponsored research, technology transfer, outreach, and market research, all these types of things and GLASE will be self-financing.

“My role as executive director is to ensure that the team moves in this direction. By bringing in industry members, offering them the project and making sure that we provide them with access to the technology that is developed by Cornell and RPI.”

 

Complementary research

Mattos said the research that will be done at Cornell and RPI is complementary and will not overlap.

“RPI will be doing more engineering-related research, such as looking at light fixtures and components including the drivers and controllers,” he said. “They are also looking at photobiology—how plants respond to different spectra as they grow and produce different nutritional compounds and changes in plant metabolism and morphology. The RPI research work is more engineering-related.

“The research at Cornell is going to be more applied in the greenhouse, such as interactions of carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies. Cornell will implement some of the systems that have already been developed at Cornell. Cornell will also be looking at different systems and different crops. Initially the studies will be done with tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries and then will be extended as necessary.”

 

The research conducted at Cornell University will be more applied in the greenhouse, including carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies.
Photo by Chris Kitchen, Cornel Univ. Marketing

Mattos said the research will be expanded to commercial size greenhouses in New York, which will be 6,000 square feet for a small scale greenhouse and 20,000 square feet for a large scale greenhouse.

“RPI will develop new systems and Cornell will implement the greenhouse tests and then move forward to a final demonstration,” he said.

Mattos said the researchers will also be working in partnership with A.J. Both at Rutgers University, who will be doing some of the energy efficacy and radiometric studies of the light fixtures.

“One of the milestones Cornell research associate Kale Harbick will be working on is modeling,” Mattos said. “This will involve trying to calculate in advance how much energy in a greenhouse is consumed and what happens if some of the variables are changed. The research will look at how these changes affect the general energy consumption of the greenhouse.”

 

Seeking industry support

Mattos said when GLASE was developed over 30 industry companies provided letters of support indicating they wanted to become part of the consortium as industry members. Since the consortium was started, many other companies have expressed their interest in becoming part of the consortium.

“Even though these companies signed letters of support that doesn’t mean they will all become consortium members,” he said. “Cornell and RPI are both already working in partnership with some companies to develop the core research. There is nothing official as industry members yet. We are looking to bring in other industry members and really make them a part of this consortium. We want to reach a broad range of industry members so this support could be both financial or it could be providing equipment to conduct the research. But the primary goal is to bring in financial support.”

Mattos said there will be a series of benefits that come with industry membership.

“They would pay for a membership and then they would get a series of benefits. We are now working with a marketing media company to promote the consortium and the opportunity for membership.

“We want to bring in large manufacturing companies, but we also want to address the other end of the spectrum and work with small growers. The growers will benefit the most from this research.”

 

Academic collaborators, information hub

Mattos said it is the intension of the consortium to expand with researchers from outside New York.

“We intend to establish future academic collaborations to develop new research projects partially funded by GLASE through industry membership funds and new research grants,” he said.

Another goal of GLASE is to create a hub for greenhouse lighting and systems engineering which includes the centralization of information.

“We will create a central database to indicate the academic research currently on-going in the U.S. (what, where and who) to facilitate the interaction between the industry and academia,” he said.

 

Impact on greenhouse, plant systems

The crops that are to be studied initially by Cornell and RPI researchers are tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries.

“These are commercially relevant crops,” Mattos said “I went to Ithaca and met some of the members of Neil’s team, including graduate students Jonathan Allred and Erica Hernandez and research technician Matthew Moghaddam, who have been working with tomatoes and strawberries. Lettuce is also one of the most commonly produced greenhouse crops.

“Part of the milestones that Tessa will be working on will be done in environmentally controlled growth chambers and growth rooms. Tessa does not have a greenhouse. Most of the research that she will be doing is related to photobiology. Everything that she will be doing has application to warehouse production even though she is not doing the research in a warehouse. This research will look at nutritional compounds and pigment production. The research in the growth chambers will be compared with greenhouse studies.”

The research conducted at RPI will be done in growth chambers and growth rooms, which should have application to commercial warehouse production.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Although the RPI research is not targeted for commercial indoor farms, Mattos said the results could be used to support that type of production.

“The proposal is to reduce greenhouse crop production energy consumption by 70 percent in seven years,” he said. “The economic factor and the majority of the research will be looking at greenhouse systems and how to integrate them. Economically we are focused on greenhouses. But we will be doing studies in growth chambers that may have application to support indoor farm production.

“Tessa will be looking especially at biological efficacy. Everybody talks about the efficacy of the light fixtures themselves. A lot of people are looking at that. Getting less attention is the biological efficacy, which is if there is a different spectrum, the same amount of photons or micromoles, can have a different impact on plants. Not only the morphology, but also the pigments, the chemical pathways. This is the biological efficacy.”

 


For more: Erico Mattos, Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium; (302) 290-1560; erico.bioenergy@hotmail.com; https://glase.cals.cornell.edu.

 

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.

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Local by Atta rebuilds vertical farm with GE LEDs after devastating fire

Case File Facts

COMPANY: Local by Atta

LOCATION: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

CROPS: Local by Atta produces a variety of lettuces, basil, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, cilantro and microgreens. Products are sold at farmers markets, health food stores, grocery stores, restaurants and through a weekly basket  program. The basket program is expected to increase sales as the company looks to expand with pick up at local businesses, municipal buildings and its new production facility.

TECHNOLOGY: GE Arize Lynk LED Growing System

The Local by Atta team (from left to right) includes: Brandon Petitpas, assistant farmer; Jesse Howatt, co-founder and farmer; Nick Barron, assistant farmer; Julian Howatt, co-founder and farmer, and Svitlana Rastovska, assistant farmer.

Background

Local by Atta was founded by Julian and Jesse Howatt. The two brothers, who grew up on a farm, have professional backgrounds in urban planning.

“Even though we grew up on a farm we have an interest in cities,” said Julian Howatt. “In 2012-2013 we reached a point in our careers that we wanted to start an urban farm together. I had been growing lettuce hydroponically in my apartment. We scaled it up to a shed in my brother’s backyard. In late 2013 we started a small-scale commercial farm and in March 2014 we began selling at a local farmers market.”

Julian said one of the reasons that they chose to do indoor hydroponics was the limitations of an outdoor urban farm.

“With an outdoor urban farm there are limitations with the land that is available and it is more difficult to do very intensive farming,” he said. “Also, our climate is not conducive to long growing seasons because of the short summers.

“An indoor farm provides a major competitive advantage for leafy greens. Except for the summer when there is a local supply, for most of the year the majority of leafy greens are coming from California and other parts of the West Coast. We saw the biggest potential starting to sell our products from September through June. It made more sense given the constraints of trying to produce high yields on a small land-based urban farm to go year-round with an indoor farm using a hydroponic production system.”

When the Howatts started growing hydroponically in their backyard shed they were looking to trial a couple of LED lights.

“We wanted a horticultural quality LED fixture and not just some random LED from a hydroponic store where we weren’t sure about the quality of the lights,” Julian said. “I googled horticultural LEDs and found Hort Americas online. I contacted Chris Higgins and I explained that we were setting up a small hydroponic production facility growing lettuce. I spoke to Chris for about an hour and talked about LEDs and lighting issues and ended up purchasing a couple of LEDs. I also read the Hort Americas case study article on Jeffrey Orkin at Greener Roots Farm in Nashville, Tenn. We eventually contacted Jeffrey because we were looking for other hydroponic farmers to exchange notes with and get some advice.”

Challenge

In late 2013 the Howatts began growing in a commercial building renting 1,500 square feet of space.

“We started off with a nutrient film technique system with PVC channels,” Julian said. “We figured out very quickly that the plumbing for this type of system is much more complex resulting in more issues including leaks, flooding and clogging. We eventually switched over to a raft system.

“Our raft system was five levels high. It was 12 feet high about 24 feet long and 4 feet wide. We had two of these systems. These were our major production systems.”

When the Howatts moved into the building they had limited funds to set up the production facility.

“At the very beginning we started with more fluorescent than LED lights,” Julian said. “We didn’t have a lot of money and LEDs were more expensive. We weren’t willing to make the jump to just LEDs at that point.”

A fire in January 2016 destroyed the interior of the building including $10,000 worth of crops that had just been planted.

Solution

“We lost the entire farm to the fire and had to restart,” Julian said. “We had maxed out the space in the building and had already started considering options of expanding, relocating and scaling up our production before the fire occurred. We restarted the business in June 2016 and started selling greens again in September 2016.”

The company’s new location consists of 7,000 square feet with 1,000 square feet of that space used for office, storage and cold storage.

“Our set up is basically a big rectangular space,” Julian said. “We have the space for six large towers. We have the frames built and are currently using three of them. Each tower measures 16 feet tall, 50 feet long and 4½ feet wide and has six production levels. Each level has two ponds measuring 4- by 24-feet. As we expand we are filling in the frames with the ponds, rafts, plumbing, lighting and wiring. The water reservoir is at the bottom of the tower and the water is pumped up to each level and then drains down to the bottom.

“Of the nearly 6,000 square feet of production area we currently are only using half of that space. By next summer we expect to be using all of it. We have about 4,000 square feet under lights. That will double as we expand. It will be close to 8,000 square feet under lights once we are at full production.”

For the new facility the Howatts chose GE LEDs which they have been using since January 2017.

“After the fire we began looking at rebuilding and we only considered installing LEDs,” said Julian. “We didn’t even consider fluorescents. It was mostly because of power constraints. The fluorescent lamps were consuming too much power and generating too much heat. It wasn’t feasible to add more fluorescents.

“Because of the exchange rates we shopped around for price quotes and even though Hort Americas wasn’t the lowest, what we really liked was the customer service that the company offered and the industry knowledge that Chris had that most of the other lighting suppliers didn’t. The other suppliers we contacted had experience related to greenhouse production, but they weren’t as knowledgeable in regards to indoor farming.”

Local by Atta produces a variety of lettuces, basil, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, cilantro and microgreens. Products are sold at farmers markets, health food stores, grocery stores, restaurants and through a weekly basket program.

Benefits

Julian said one of the advantages of using the GE LEDs is their energy efficiency.

“The biggest constraint for us besides money is the power constraint,” he said. “How much power do we have access to in the building can be an issue. It’s not as simple as just getting more power from the utility company.

“The GE LEDs are more efficient so we can get more light for the same amount of power, which is a nice bonus for us. Most of our crops grow better under the GE lights when they have the same light intensity or when we can give them more light because we can afford the power. Generally for most crops the yields are better and the quality of the product is better. This is especially true for red lettuces. We get better red pigmentation.”

For more: Local by Atta, (506) 233-0393; moncton@atta.ca; http://www.atta.ca; https://www.facebook.com/LocalByAtta.

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Prepared by Hort Americas 2017©          Photos courtesy of Local by Atta

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Creekside Nursery uses GE LEDs for early flowering of long day plants

Case File Facts

COMPANY: Creekside Nursery

LOCATION: Hempstead, Texas

CROPS: Creekside Nursery is primarily a woody ornamental grower that produces  trees, shrubs, succulents, Knock Out roses, ornamental grasses, perennials  and annual color. The company sells to landscapers, independent garden  centers and rewholesalers in Texas and Oklahoma.

TECHNOLOGY: GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamp

Creekside Nursery used GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamps to flower long day plants, including begonias, mandevilla and hibiscus, for sale in February and March.
Photo courtesy of Creekside Nursery

 

Background

Creekside Nursery has been in business since 1992.

“We grow 200-gallon trees all the way down to pots of annual bedding plants. I’m the manager for the annual color, perennials and tropicals,” said Troy Cox. “Woody ornamentals make up the majority of what we grow.”

Creekside Nursery has a total of about 500 acres of outdoor and indoor production. There are about 40 acres of protected production that includes some unheated winter protection for woody ornamentals. Cox manages about 25 acres of environmentally-controlled greenhouse space.

Challenge

Creekside Nursery had customers that wanted long day plants ready for sale in February and March.

“Our salespeople came to us and said there were customers who wanted product ready in mid-February and early March,” Cox said. “These were plants that it just wasn’t possible to have ready at that time of year under normal growing conditions because they were long day plants. These included begonias, mandevilla and hibiscus. For mandevilla and hibiscus trying to have them in flower at this time you have to have a little help.

“We had a contract grow for an independent garden center that had an ad going into the newspaper in which they wanted to sell begonias on March 11. There were six different begonia varieties, including some new introductions. The plants were being grown in different size containers including 6-inch pots and hanging baskets.

Solution

In order to have the begonias ready for the March 11 ad, Creekside Nursery purchased 30 GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamps from Hort Americas. The lamps were installed in a 30- by 96-foot greenhouse.

“I started the begonias at their regular time as recommended by Ball Seed,” Cox said. “The lamps were set to come on between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. every night just like with mum lighting. The begonias flowered earlier and were in bloom and ready to sell by the March 11 ad date.

“I put the hibiscus and mandevilla in the same greenhouse just to trial them under the lights. All of the plants flowered faster than what they would have without the lights. We sold all of the plants that were lit with the GE lamps and the greenhouse is empty.”

GE Arize Greenhouse Pro LED Flowering Lamp

Benefits

Cox said using the GE LED flowering lamps he was able to have all three crops flower faster than if he hadn’t installed the lights.

“The begonias flowered first, followed by the hibiscus and the mandevilla last,” he said. “We were able to get the hibiscus blooming around April 1 with the lights on for about six weeks.”

Based on the success he had with the GE LED flowering lamps, Cox said Creekside Nursery is planning to purchase additional lamps to use on more crops.

“We expect that we will be doing the begonias again next year since it was such a success this year,” he said. “We are also going to try to flower the mandevillas so they’re ready for sale in March and April. Mandevilla is a major crop for us so we will be using the lights on them.

“We probably won’t use the lights on hibiscus. Customers have it in their minds that hibiscus don’t bloom until the summer. However, there are other crops that we want to try the lights on. For the perennials, we will use the lights on echinacea, rudbeckia and leucanthemum. We do small numbers of those crops, but we know the lights will work on them.”

GE Arize™ Greenhouse Pro Photoperiodic LED Lamp

For more: Creekside Nursery, (713) 265-4300; info@creeksidenursery.com; http://creeksidenursery.com.

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Prepared by Hort Americas 2017©          Photos courtesy of Creekside Nursery

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Hort Americas new Supplemental and Artificial Lighting Education Video

Hort Americas just released its newest video designed to help people interested in using supplemental or artificial lighting in hydroponic, vertical farming, urban ag, tissue culture and greenhouse applications.

Whether you are looking to purchase high pressure sodium lamps, need photo-periodic lighting, learn more about LED Grow Lights or simply have any other lighting questions…this video series will help.


Understanding Light Quantity and Its Effect on Commercial Horticulture from C Higgins on Vimeo.

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com