High tunnel crop management, automation & marketing 2012


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by Erik and Craig Gundacker. Presented at the 2012 MN Statewide High Tunnel Conference

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High tunnel crop management, automation & marketing 2012

  1. 1. High Tunnel Crop Management, Automation & Marketing
  2. 2. Overview• Scenic Valley Farm• Scenic Valley Green Energy• High Tunnel Overview• High Tunnel Management• Marketing• SHARE-d Farm
  3. 3. Scenic Valley Farms• Designs and manages high tunnels, climate control systems, and solar thermal heating technology• Five high tunnels in Minnesota and Wisconsin• Produces organically certified tomatoes, peppers, blackberries, raspberries, herbs, and leafy green produce• Decades of agriculture and engineering experience
  4. 4. Scenic Valley Green Energy • Solid, long-term investment • Generate income from electricity • Promote sustainability by reducing C02 emissions • Gain energy independence and protection from volatile electricity prices • Offset tax liabilitiesAffordable,Clean Energy fromSmall Wind Turbinesfor Homes, Farms,Businesses, PublicFacilities andInvestors
  5. 5. High Tunnel Agriculture• Hybrid of open field and greenhouse production• Non-permanent structures• Less expensive than greenhouses• Crops planted in ground to ensure superior taste• Create 12 month growing season• Constructed with steel hoops, covered with heat retaining, light dispersing, anti-drip plastic• Plastic efficiently rolled up and down to manage air flow• Drip irrigation optimizes water and natural fertilizer inputs.• Versatile in size and shape• Incentives available at Federal and State levels
  6. 6. Economic Benefits of High Tunnels• Boost fruit and vegetable yields up to 400% compared to field grown produce• Steady, reliable supply of organic produce• Purchase produce at wholesale distributor rates• Harvest and deliver fruits and vegetables at optimum ripeness and flavor• Create a year round growing environment• Meet consumer demand on either end of the production curve when competition is lower and prices are higher• Harvest ≈ 95 percent grade A fruit and vegetables• Meet the increasing demand for locally grown produce• Grow healthier, safer produce with less risk of contamination• Cost effectively expand the scale of organic farming• Shorten shipping distances = lower freight costs• Create new regional produce
  7. 7. Environmental Benefits of High Tunnels• Shorter distance to market cuts fuel usage• Solar power reduces carbon emissions• Drip irrigation conserves water• Natural compost replenishes the soil• Organic mulching reduces erosion• Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers eliminated• Crops protected from climate and weather extremes• Disease, pest, and insect control inputs reduced• Respond to water shortages in other regions of the country
  8. 8. Increase Produce Yields SWROC 2009 Bell Pepper Harvest: High Tunnel vs. Outdoor 6 Average marketable yield (lbs/plant) 5 4• The University of Minnesota 3 High Tunnel 2 Southwest Research and Outdoor 1 Outreach Center (SWROC) 0 conducted field study to Ace (green) Ace (red) compare organic high tunnel Bell Pepper vegetables to outdoor grown SWROC 2009 Tomato Harvest: High Tunnel vs. Outdoor varieties 20• SWROC high tunnels in study Average marketable yield (lbs/plant) 18 16 did not utilize auxiliary heat. 14 12 10 8 High Tunnel 6 Outdoor 4 2 0 Paragon Valley Girl Cobra Pink Beauty Tomato Determinate Tomate Indeterminate
  9. 9. Increase Produce Yields SVF Weekly Determinate Tomato Harvest (2011) • Yields 4 typically 200- 300% higher 3.5 in high 3 tunnelsAverage marketable lbs per plant SVF High Tunnels • Our organic 2.5 determinate 2 tomato Total = 19.5 lbs per yields in 1.5 plant 2011 = 20 lbs 1 per plant • Established 0.5 goal of 25 0 lbs/plant in 7/15/2011 8/15/2011 9/15/2011 10/15/2011 2012 SVF high tunnels equaled yields at University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC)
  10. 10. Increasing Produce Yields SVF Weekly Determinate Tomato Harvest (2011) 4 3.5Average marketable lbs per plant 3 Conventional HT • Solar Solar Thermal HT 2.5 Thermal 2 high tunnel warms soil 1.5 and air → 1 End of Year Total higher 0.5 Conventional = 9 lbs yields (see per plant chart at left) 0 Solar Thermal = 18 lbs per plant SVF solar thermal outperformed conventional high tunnel
  11. 11. Increase Yields• High tunnel grown raspberries at the University of Minnesota, Rapids High Tunnel Research Centers• High tunnels used drip irrigation and auxiliary propane heat to protect against frost damage Yields of two raspberry varieties in field and high tunnels (University of Minnesota, Morris)
  12. 12. Extending the Season Blackberry photos taken November 14th at Scenic Valley Farms in Rosemount, MN
  13. 13. Create a Year Round SeasonSpinach Harvested on January 15th Ripe Gold Medal Heirlooms on November 4th Winter Spinach under Row Covers
  14. 14. Extend the Growing SeasonHigh tunnel versus outdoor grown early season extension (University of Minnesota SWROC)
  15. 15. Extend the Growing Season USDA Terminal Market Price (Chicago) Blackberries• Meet consumer 40 Wholesale Price ($) demand for local 35 12 5.6 oz cups 30 25 fruits and 20 15 vegetables on either 10 5 Low Price High Price end of the 0 1/6/2007 2/6/2007 3/6/2007 4/6/2007 5/6/2007 6/6/2007 7/6/2007 8/6/2007 9/6/2007 10/6/2007 11/6/2007 12/6/2007 production curve when competition is lower and prices are higher. USDA Terminal Market Price (Chicago) Vine Ripe Tomatoes• USDA terminal 35 market prices for 30 25 produce generally Wholesale 20 Market Price ($) higher in the early 15 lb flats 15 Low Price 10 and late season 5 High Price months. 0 3/24/2007 4/24/2007 5/24/2007 6/24/2007 7/24/2007 8/24/2007 9/24/2007 10/24/2007 11/24/2007 12/24/2007
  16. 16. Improves Produce Quality Tomatoes in SVF high tunnel High Tunnel Grown Outdoor Grown Tomatoes planted at same time in springHeirloom bell peppers in SVF high tunnel Summer blackberries in SVF high tunnel
  17. 17. Create Diversity of Regional Produce• High tunnels produce crops not able to grow unprotected in a region, diversifying the farming system and creating new value added industries.• SVF testing the viability of growing blackberries in a zone 4 hardiness zone• Dr. Vince Fritz, a University of Minnesota horticultural research scientist is conducting field studies on the medicinal properties of ginger grown in high tunnels.• Penn State University grows exotic heirloom fruits and vegetables in research high tunnels and then markets them on-campus.
  18. 18. Suitable Crops for High Tunnels • Cucumbers • Strawberries • Berries • Watermelons • Beans • Tomatoes • Onions • Herbs • Flowers • Cherries • Peppers • And Many • Blackberries More
  19. 19. Suitable Crops for Hardiness Zones 2-4• Any crop that can normally be grown in the zone• Most crops suitable for zone 4, 5, 6, and some 7• If supplemental heat provided, zone 6 and beyond
  20. 20. Ideal for Organic Agriculture– Higher yields offset more labor intensive practices– Plastic barrier control disease and pest outbreaks– Weeds easier to manage– Natural compost applied early in year– Liquid organic fertilizer fed through drip irrigation– Increases percentage of high quality fruit and produce– Biological controls thrive in controlled environment
  21. 21. High Tunnel Research Sites inMinnesota Experiment Stations Grower Cooperators
  22. 22. Importance of High Tunnel SelectionResearch a tunnel that fits production size, handles snow load, accommodates blackberry row height, and fits budget.• Gothic peak on 12’ X 30’ X 96’ tunnel handles snow load well• 4-6’ straight sides accommodate outside bramble rows• 6’ straight sides to maintain adequate ventilation• Use 6 mil poly covering AC/IR• Recommend using double layer poly with air space inflated by fan
  23. 23. Types of High Tunnel Management• Manual• Semi – Automated• Fully Automated
  24. 24. Manual Management• Traditional Definition of High Tunnel Management – No electrical service – No active ventilation – No heating system. – Ventilated by manually rolling the sides up or down as needed using a roll bar. – Covered with a single layer of 6-mil greenhouse plastic structure year around and normally lasts four years – Heavy row covers provide frost protection. – No sensor controlled irrigation system• Drawbacks – Not monitoring high tunnels on a daily basis can result in disaster – Excessive heat builds up in hours, sometimes minutes – Common for air temps to reach 120 F in March – Over or under watering can go undetected
  25. 25. Semi-Automated Management• Multiple controllers• Multiple sensors• Saves labor• Reduces risk• Requires more installation time• No real time data feedback• Grower not notified of device failure while off site
  26. 26. Ventilation and Circulation• Exhaust fans mountedinto end walls• Motorized winder onside walls• Both devicesthermostaticallycontrolled• Hayloft style doors inend walls
  27. 27. Irrigation System• Installed drip irrigation • Emitters within 8” on either side of bramble • Each emitter releases ½ gallon per hour.• Semi automated system • Sensor and controller provide 6 zones with 6 irrigation times per zone • Sensor provides moisture content (%), soil temperature, and EC • Irrigation cycle suspended above pre-set soil moisture content • Irrigated in 1.5 hour cycles at 7 am and 6 pm • Irrigation increased to three 1.5 hour cycles during fruiting
  28. 28. Fertigation System• Installed EZ Flow (1 gallon) inline fertigation system• Applied organic liquid fertilizer containing fish • Fish Aqua – OMRI approved• Discovered fish emulsion based fertilizer clogs emitters • Drip tape not clogged by emulsion but emitters too close = wasted water and fertilizer • Install drip tape future high tunnels • Plan to fertigate one times per week • Perform soil analysis beginning and end of season, leaf analysis during growing season
  29. 29. Automated Management• Combines controllers for circulation, ventilation, irrigation, fertigation, a nd heating• Programmable Logic Controller wireless to a PC• PC wireless to internet
  30. 30. Environmental Management System (EMS)• Automated climate control system for high tunnels• User monitors and controls the climate from touch screen PLC, laptop, or Smart phone• Ventilation, irrigation, and heating are monitored and controlled on-site or remotely • SVF awarded $100,000 USDA Small Business Innovation Research Grant • Testing at SVF high tunnels in both Minnesota and Wisconsin • Expected operational date: March 2011 • Potential SBIR Phase II Commercialization Grant in 2013
  31. 31. Environmental Management System (EMS) Production Processes Controlled heating cooling ventilation circulation irrigation fertigation security surveillance High Tunnel Sensors air temperature motion soil temperature video humidity water flow soil pH soil water content TDS/EC light intensity
  32. 32. Early Development Screenshots
  33. 33. Solar Thermal Heating • Qualifies for 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit • Reduces active income tax liability• Solar panels collect heated air• Fans circulate heated air below ground• Warms soil and air temperatures• Extends growing season to allow for additional crops and harvests• Reduces propane fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions
  34. 34. High Tunnel Temperature Research• Three 30’x96’ high tunnels in Readsown, WI• HT1 - conventional with single layer• HT2 - solar thermal (ST) with double layer• HT3 - conventional with double layer• Use temp data logger to record temps every 30 minutes, 24/7• Research Nov 2011 to present• Temp data logger in soil, inside tunnel, outside• Periodic reading of logger data• Soil data logger in HT2 failed in May 2011
  35. 35. Data Logger Conclusions• Double layer raises night time air temp ≈ 7F• Solar thermal with double layer raises night time air temperature ≈ 20 degrees F• Solar thermal soil temp reaches 55F by March 15th. Even sooner with double layer• Tomato Planting times • Outside May 23 • Conventional HT April 10 - some heat • Solar Thermal HT March 15 – some heat• Last day to harvest Tomato • Outside Sept 23 • Conventional HT Oct 23 – some heat • Solar Thermal HT Nov 24 – some heat
  36. 36. Economics Manually Semi- Automated AutoHigh tunnel (30’x96’) , not including $9600 $9200 $9200installation, double layer, incl shippingIrrigation and controller, trellis, $1100 $1400 $1100fertigation tank •withPlants $400 $400 solar thermalEnd walls, side boards, door $800 $800 $800 **Seehardware, screws cash flow hand outMotorized rollup sides w/thermostat $900 $300Heater w/thermostat $350 $250Ventilation & Circulation w/thermostat $650 $550Plastic mulch $300 $300 $300EMS $5000Total Fixed Expenses $12200 $14000 $17500Income (tomatoes, peppers, spinach) $20000 est $36380** $45811* **
  37. 37. Estimated Return on Investment
  38. 38. Market DriversThe farm responds to….• The increasing consumer demand for local and organic fruit and vegetables• The building movement to invest locally in sustainable agriculture and clean energy• Rising oil prices (petroleum is used in agriculture for shipping, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides)• Producers wanting to extend the growing season in colder regions• Consumers demanding safer, healthier fruits and vegetables with less risk of contamination• Current and future water shortages in California and the Southwest• Wholesale producer buyers need to shorten shipping distances and reduce freight costs• The global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions• The produce industry’s need to adapt to climate and weather extreme
  39. 39. Market for the Farm’s ProduceCurrent Markets• Grocer Cooperatives• Wholesale Dealers• RestaurantsPotential Markets• Supermarkets/Retail Outlets• Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)• Farmers Market’s• Value Added Products• Schools and Universities
  40. 40. Survey sent to current and potentialproduce buyers
  41. 41. Online Produce Market• Web based e-commerce• Provides up to date information on fresh produce for sale• Orders processed by credit card, check, or money order• Buyers communicate order notes to producer• Designed for wholesale buyers, restaurants, grocer co-ops• Open to registered users who complete a profile• Orders also placed by phone, fax, and email
  42. 42. Sustainable High Tunnel Agriculture + Renewable Energy (SHARE-d) High Tunnels
  43. 43. Sustainable Agriculture. Clean Energy. • Joint venture high tunnel greenhouses • Environmentally and financially sustainable • Provides reliable supply of locally grown, organic produce • Excess produce sold on the open market • Harvest fruits and vegetables at optimum ripeness and flavor • Increases yields and extends the growing season • Merges the technologies to earn a rapid return on investment
  44. 44. Contact Us Erik Gundacker (563) 650-3654 gun@usinternet.com Craig Gundacker (612) 961-3871 cegundacker@scenicvalleyfarms.com www.scenicvalleyfarms.com