Now is the time to begin planning for next year’s building projects, whether you are retrofitting or building new. To help you with planning an expansion, reducing operating costs, or improving efficiency, here are some tips to assist you in the process.
Commercial Greenhouse Retrofits
The first step is to know what you want to accomplish. If operation labor reduction is the key motivator behind a retrofit project then you need to look at how the greenhouse is affecting your labor. The best value for retrofitting will be different than if increasing crop yield is your main goal.
Some areas to focus attention on for increasing worker productivity:
- Replace stationary benches with rolling benches. Many greenhouse growers in an effort to pack in as much production inside the greenhouse leave virtually no space to walk between the crop. With rolling benches you only need one aisle per house, so you may increase the width of your production aisles without loosing any crop production, this enables workers to move more efficiently between the benches.
- Bring in material handling systems like double rail carts, Echo Basket Systems. Remember if your material handling system is supported by the greenhouse you need to make sure the greenhouse design will handle these loads.
- Consider adding more ventilation, or even just HAF fans to move the air. If your greenhouse gets too hot in the summer it’s not just your plants that may be lagging. Creating a good working environment will lead to more productive workers.
Some areas to retrofit greenhouses for increasing production:
- Rolling benches get another vote under this category. Typically Rolling benches can add 25% more production space from conventional stationary bench layouts.
- Reglazing the roof. If you are growing in a poly greenhouse the reglazing is part of your regular maintenance schedule. But, 8mm PCSS roofs, Acrylic, and even glass can get dull, or damaged. When looking at how to get more out of your greenhouse consider the light levels you need and review your roof glazing.
Best greenhouse retrofit value for improving the crop environment:
- Consider adding extra ventilation. This can be the easiest and most cost effective retrofit to an older greenhouse. Rollup curtains can be added on to any hoop house or gutter connected poly sidewalls or poly end walls, and can be manually operated or hooked up with a simple motor. Hard glazed sides and ends can be fitted with vents, and in most cases we can reuse the existing sidewall glazing. And gutter vents, and ridge vents can be added to most greenhouse arches with a little expertise. What is that value in adding ventilation? Better flexibility for your growing environment, to reduce humidity, increase air flow, help to harden plants.
- Raise the roof. Granted this is not a retrofit project for the squeamish, and in some cases it may be more expensive than tearing down the greenhouse and starting from scratch. However, every year a few growers decide it is worth it to improve the growing environment. For this kind of project you need to make sure you hire a qualified greenhouse builder with experience in raising greenhouses. Keep in mind that modern commercial greenhouses are being built with 16 – 24 feet under gutter heights.
Greenhouse retrofit Projects for reducing other operating costs:
- Install energy curtains. Energy curtains will result in significant heat savings in the winter – between 20 to 40 percent! They also provide shade and help keep your greenhouse cool in the summer months.
- Check your vents. Over time with sun exposure, wind, rain, and snow, the rubber seal on ventilation windows can grow brittle, or malformed. This means that your vents will no longer be sealing properly. Improper seals cost money as heat is directed out of your greenhouse. Poorly sealed vents also affect the operation of your vent. Modern greenhouse roof ventilation uses EPDM rubber which is more durable than older vent rubbers.
- Consider flood benches the savings potential in water and fertilizer can often justify the cost of the benches.
New Commercial Greenhouse Construction
When Retrofitting your greenhouse is not the answer a new construction expansion may be more what you need. Planning a construction project from the ground up involves a lot of details that you may not deal with on a regular basis. Don’t hesitate to use your greenhouse manufacturer and greenhouse construction company to help you with the planning process. GGS is here to help. A few pointers to help you start:
- Since building a new greenhouse is generally determined after production demand is assessed, this is the logical first step for establishing the size of the greenhouse footprint. Consider beyond your immediate needs and plan to allow for some future growth as well if possible.
- Now consider the environment you need for optimum plant growth, and talk to your GGS rep about how extra under gutter height, additional ventilation, glazing material options, and the different styles of greenhouses can improve or detract from the environment you want.
- Next you need to look at your existing facilities and systems. What is sufficient for this expansion, and what will require more capacity. This includes shipping bays, warehouse space, office space, environmental controls, and of course the heating system. You should always get a qualified greenhouse heating engineer like Niagrow to review your current greenhouse heating and your expansion plans.
- With most greenhouse builds you will need to talk to your local building inspector. Every year more regulations are put in place - make sure that your proposed expansion follows all laws and town regulations. For instance, if your building is too close to your neighbor’s land, you may have to file a variance with the town.
- If you are expanding your production space, consider that you may need more warehousing and storage space to accommodate this extra yield. Most greenhouse growers ask us to build these areas out of our greenhouse structures. Widespan greenhouses are particularly good for shipping areas.
If all this is starting to sound like too much… we haven’t even gotten into all the greenhouse options. Consider hiring us to project manage your expansion. GGS has been building greenhouses all over the world since 1979. We are here to help.