By Ray Hicks, President, CO2Meter, Inc.
If you haven’t heard of it, Green Tech 2018 in Amsterdam is the world’s largest exhibition of products for the horticultural industry. This isn’t a garden show. Green Tech is an industrial show featuring continuous production and management systems covering the entire process from seeds to the delivery of finished goods.
Irene and I visited Green Tech to learn about the next generation of CO2 delivery and safety products that will be used in the US and worldwide..
True to European form, Green Tech was a brilliant coordination of technology and masterful communication by display. I was impressed. Perhaps it was only because there were dozens of nationalities represented on the show floor, but there were no exhibits where I had to ask “what are you selling?
American trade show entries should come to Green Tech just to learn this.
As we walked the trade show floor, it was clear the number of Asian companies and start-up distributors offing LED lighting was overwhelming. LED holds the promise of low-energy growing, year around, anywhere. Conversion to LED is gradual according to leading distributors that supply conventional and LED sources.
In the past, the challenge for LED was that the wavelength of light produced wasn’t wide enough to promote plant growth. Osram GmbH from Germany is addressing this effectively with a multi-spectral device using more wavelength per device. Their quantitative information comparing all current methods on the market today was impressive.
The production equipment for horizontal and vertical plant production was ingenious and interesting. It would be feasible today to build skyscrapers that could supply all the produce needed in a city, thereby eliminating the weather variables and transportation costs associated with growing food.
But not every technology was a large one. There where small companies that supply unusual products I had never thought about. For example, FotoCCar offered a plant posing system to show images to buyers of the type and size of plants being ordered or delivered.
Seeing our Products in the Field
While we were in the Netherlands, my Dutch business mate Casey Bockstart took me around to a Greenhouse operation that has been testing our CO2meter products. It was amazing to see an industrial scale horticulture operation, confirming what we could only imagine. The interconnection of each element, no matter how small, showed that the owners never missed an opportunity to promote a higher standard of product at a lower energy cost.
The conservation and recycling of all materials including 100% of the water and power generation from plant compost and byproducts was a textbook study in sustainable agriculture.
Everything was computer controlled, from temperature to the spectral distribution of the lighting. The system even took into account weather forecasts. The managers had an evolved knowledge of what and how to measure.
It was interesting to me that few if any of the greenhouses used CO2 generated from combustion of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Instead they use clean CO2 extracted at near 100% purity from recovered CO2 or CO2 extractors. The difference in yield and quality consistency is extraordinary. It was explained to me that the few percent difference in concentration between CO2 from combustion and pure CO2 was made up of materials that are contrary to good plant physiology. The economics of superior gas was obvious.
The robotic automation, process and planning management to deliver product was extraordinary. The greenhouse was able to deliver seasonally adjusted quantities of 5 species of plants in 5 colors in 3 sizes according to computer-modeled sales forecasts. As a result, there was virtually no waste in the production cycle.
Seeing the future of horticultural production has motivated me to plan additional articles in the coming months detailing the many elements of measurement and control available worldwide, but not commonly mentioned in commercial horticulture literature. Technology has the ability to transform how we grow plants, and I want CO2Meter to be a part of it.