Cancel OK

Greenhouses: Old methods, new technology

Although the basic tenets of greenhouse growing haven’t changed all that much since the Victorian era—protecting crops indoors with controlled heat and light and a minimum of water and soil—technology and experimentation have certainly lent a hand.

Growing media continues to evolve with recyclable materials such as cocopeat (from coconut husks) and rockwool (from molten minerals) while LED lighting, radiant hot-water heating systems, closed-loop irrigation systems, remote sensors, drone cameras, and sophisticated production algorithms help deliver consistent product, cycle after cycle.

“As a vertically integrated grower, we’re using all the latest technologies available to grow the best possible vegetables we can,” said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Hothouse Foods Inc. BB #:170379 of Leamington, ON.

BrightFarms, which specializes lettuces, greens, and herbs, relies heavily on data monitoring to improve operations and the resulting product, according to Josh Norbury, vice president of operations.

“Technology has significantly helped our growers make decisions,” he said. “They can more easily monitor temperature, humidity, and light to ensure the best flavor, texture, and nutrition.”

Viraj Puri, cofounder and CEO of greenhouse pioneer Gotham Greens, headquartered in New York, concurs, noting that Gotham Greens continues to benefit from forward leaps in technology.

“Through our automated systems, we can ensure that everything is in exactly the right balance,” he says. “We’re seeing increased investment in research and development toward new technology and automation for greenhouses. This investment is vital to improve productivity and crop yields while reducing costs.”

“With an HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning]-controlled environment, you’re able to grow leafy greens, herbs, flowers, and microgreens with ease,” said Scott Wood, Mid-Atlantic sales director of Babylon Micro-Farms, Inc. of Charlottesville, VA.

This also allows Babylon Micro-Farms to grow year-round with no waste, as excess produce can simply continue growing.

This is a multi-part feature adapted from the cover story of the May/June 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.