Greenhouse Product News

Big Grower November 2017

The business magazine for commercial growers

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1 0 NOVEMBER 2017 • BIGGROWER.COM M ost young boys dream of growing up to be firefighters or policemen. But others, like Tero Rapila, grew up in Finland and spent their summers dreaming of designing a less labor-intensive way to toil in the family-owned greenhouse. There was certainly plenty of time to ponder an easier method during the long afternoons as he hand-seeded, watered, transplanted, harvested and packed lettuce. Eventually, together with his uncle, they developed the first automated growing system for the greenhouse. Later, after his subsequent studies of engineering and a career with a leading industrial automation company, Rapila and his friend, Juhana Kantola, founded Green Automation Export in Finland. Cut to present day, Rapila, chief executive officer, and Kantola, chief technology officer, lead a world-wide operation that has delivered an advanced hydroponic nutrient film technique (NFT) growing system to commercial greenhouse growers in more than 20 countries during the last 15 years. The patented Green Automation technique is optimized for lettuce and herb production for larger greenhouse operations (minimum 1 acre). This high-tech, efficient growing method addresses the numerous challenges that entrepreneurs, investors and greenhouse growers encounter, such as: • Unpredictable weather • Shortage of labor • Carbon footprint concerns • Water shortages • Consumer demand for local produce • Crop contamination due to pests • Human hand product handling • Inefficient shipping Recently, the company responded to the ever-growing consumer and investor demand in North America with the introduction of its subsidiary, Green Automation Americas LLC. In the U.S., these growing systems are presently operating in Massachusetts (Little Leaf Farms); New Hampshire (lēf Farms), and New York and Illinois (Gotham Greens). The size of each of these growing facilities ranges from 1 to 3 acres. SUSTAINABLE INDOOR FARMING So, what exactly is sustainable indoor farming? According to Patrik Borenius, who manages Green Automation Americas, headquartered in Wellington, Florida, "Simply put, efficiency is the key to sustainable indoor farming. The Green Automation system is designed to produce more, while using less resources — less energy, less space and less labor." Borenius details below just how the system is designed for the upmost in energy, space and labor efficiency: Energy efficiency. Designed for greenhouses that use natural sunlight as the primary energy source, the leafy greens will all be equally exposed to the enriching rays of the sun during the day, and — thanks to adjusting gutters — no plant shadows another plant. Additional growing lights are only used to supplement the natural light when needed. Space efficiency. High building costs as well as the revenue needed to facilitate heating every square inch of a greenhouse to maximize the number of plants per area is extremely important. Green Automation uses a patented Are you growing (or considering growing) lettuce or herbs? If so, fully automating your production can address many concerns such as labor shortage, carbon footprint, shipping efficiencies and more. BY ANNE BENNETT-CIAGLIA High Tech Growing Systems Help Improve Efficiencies and Meet Consumer Demand Figure 3. Figure 1. Computerized seeding. Figure 2. Gutters are next to each other maximizing efficiency of the growing space. AUTOMATIO N All photos: Green Automa on

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