Horticulture one liners

Tomato production per m2

Over the last 50 years, the greenhouse industry has grown from small family based operation to large enterprises, from low-tech glasshouse with little environmental control to high-tech modern greenhouse with complex climate control systems, from soil to soiless production, and from short production cycle to year-round production of high quality produce.

Some important facts to know:

  1. Light is the most important growth factor in plants production 1% more light in a greenhouse gives 1% more production.
  2. Adding CO2 to your greenhouse production will increase your tomato production by 30% to 40%.
  3. By the year 2020 The Netherlands will have an energy neutral greenhouse production
  4. Labor and shipping costs in North America can be at least five times more costly than heating so mechanize where possible.

The most productive tomato farm in the world at this moment produces 104 Kg tomatoes per m2. Numbers tell the tale: Without adequate water tomato yields around Leamington Ontario in Canada run about 75.000 – 86.000 kg tomatoes per hectare. If the growers has a good irrigation system it will achieve almost double, 124.000 to 148.000 kg tomatoes per hectare. If these tomato plants are put in Greenhouses, you can achieve a 500.000 in an average middle tech greenhouse up till over 1.000.0000 kilos per hectare in a high tech greenhouse such as Village Farms

The computer age has been with us for 30-plus years and many operations still don’t take advantage of its potential. Computers are tools that can enhance steps and procedures in our business when we know what the outcomes are. The can definitely solve problems. By using the computer to take care of routine tasks of record keeping, planning and retrieving information, we will have more time to solve problems and improve our operations.

Greenhouse systems built from 2020 will be energy-neutral

Elkas greenhouse

A very good article from Peppers today in which I collaborated.

With fossil fuels predicted to become scarcer and more expensive worldwide, energy costs are clearly an increasing concern for growers. This is particularly true for pepper growers in the Netherlands, since their greenhouses require energy to control the temperature, and if their peppers are to be of the highest quality, they must be cultivated under the right temperature conditions.

Production costs in greenhouses have been shown to represent around 78% of the total chain costs, and energy consumption is the main component of these costs, according to the Greenergy project, a Collective Research project funded by the European Commission.

Therefore, Dutch pepper growers have recognized a need for reliable, up-to-date information, as they become more and more involved in energy production.

The importance of greenhouses in Dutch agriculture
The role played by greenhouses in the agricultural scenario might appear to be relatively insignificant, insofar as they account for no more than 0.5% of the total area of agricultural land in the Netherlands. Their average size is also relatively small when compared with the average size of other farms (1.5 ha compared with 44 ha for the average dairy farm). However, greenhouses play a very important role in the economy and represent high sources of income.

Energy costs are especially relevant for Dutch pepper growers, since the area devoted to pepper crops in the Netherlands has increased considerably in the last few years. Whereas in the early 1990s peppers covered an area of just 700 hectares, today they have overtaken the tomato as the most important vegetable crop, reaching an area of 1,250 hectares in 2007, according to the US National Agricultural Statistics Service. Meanwhile, peppers in glasshouses accounted for 25% of the total horticultural area under glass in 2008, with 1,184.02 hectares.

Pepper surface under glass in the Netherlands 2008

Source: CBS, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Den Haag/Heerlen

Cogeneration: a Dutch success story
One of the solutions successfully adopted by farmers in the Netherlands to reduce costs in greenhouses is the Combined Heat and Power system (CHP, or WKK, from the Dutch warmte kracht koppeling). The implementation of CHP, also known as Cogeneration, can save the grower 20 to 30% on energy bills, according to Mr. Erik Van Berkum, General Manager of Hoogendoorn America Inc, a subsidiary of the Hoogendoorn Group in Holland, one of the most innovative suppliers of process automation systems in the horticultural industry.

Since CHP was first implemented in 1987 as a means of providing electricity for growing lights, the concept has changed little: electricity is produced by burning fuel, the greenhouse is fed with the CO2 and the heat, and the remaining electricity is used in the greenhouse itself for light or it is returned to the national grid.

Nico van Ruiten, Chairman of LTO Glaskracht, an organization representing greenhouse growers, made the following observations to the digital Made in Holland magazine, published by the bureau of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs: “In the 1980s, gas-fired combined heat and power installations were introduced, which produced not only electricity and heat, but also CO2, which plants need to grow. If you blow CO2 into the greenhouse, the crops will grow faster. All of these techniques have been developed further in the meantime, which is entirely logical, because energy is one of the major cost items for all growers in the Netherlands and abroad. Energy-saving measures are therefore not only beneficial for the environment, but also extremely important for growers’ profit margins.”

Key factors in the success of CHP in Dutch greenhouses
There are many key factors in the successful implementation of Combined Heat and Power by Dutch farmers over the last 20 years.

Heating while using energy.- No other industry can take such advantage of the energy generated by fuel while using the remaining heat to regulate the temperature of the agricultural and horticultural holding, exporting the energy surplus back to the grid or using it in the greenhouse itself.

Taking advantage of CO2 .- The advantages of using CO2 to increase profitability while reducing emissions make CHP a sustainable solution for minimizing the human impact on the environment.

Government role.- The system would not be sufficiently solid, if government agricultural policy were not focused on supporting the greenhouse sector, with the avowed objective of contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by saving energy, while producing energy at the same time. The “Green label” subsidy is also a fillip for greenhouses in the Netherlands, because by fulfilling certain requirements, the grower can gain access to certain incentives, such as the energy investment or Energy Tax (ET) deduction, or a reduction in the levy on energy consumption for glasshouse horticulture.

Electricity scenario.- The liberalization of electricity generation and gas supply, together with a favorable electricity and gas price ratio and a good infrastructure, are also key factors in the success of CHP in the Netherlands.

CHP usage has increased to reach about 90% of farms in the Netherlands in 2009, according to Mr. Rik Lootens from Syngenta Seeds Vegetables Company.

As for the future of CHP in Dutch greenhouses, Mr. Jan Korff, who is on the Netherlands Member Committee of the World Energy Council, predicted a “flourishing future for CHP in the Netherlands” in the presentation that he made entitled “CHP in The Netherlands – Opportunities and Threats” at Euroheat&Power, 6th Industry and Utility Forum, held in Slovenia in November 2007.

Among the threats to CHP, Korff highlighted the low level of transparency regarding the network capacity; the lack of a system of milestones and cancellation fees; the lack of pro-active behavior; and the need for a stable approach on the part of the government.

Elkas Greenhouse

Global energy saving programme for greenhouses in the Netherlands
With the aim of reducing energy costs in greenhouses while minimizing the impact on the environment, the Dutch government and the glasshouse industry in the Netherlands have set up some ambitious programme with a cluster of goals related with energy, crop protection and fertilization for the glasshouse industry.

One of these projects currently in progress is the Energy-Producing Greenhouse Transition Programme. Launched in 2006, the ultimate objective of this project is to reach the point where greenhouse systems built from 2020 are energy-neutral, i.e. they produce the same amount of energy as they consume.

In addition to the CHP system, the Dutch agricultural sector is focusing its energy-saving efforts on the use of other sources of energy:

– Solar energy.- Using greenhouses as “solar collectors” that can then supply energy to third parties or in combination with semi-closed greenhouses. This solar energy can be applied in greenhouses in two ways, according to the specific energy needs: by implementing a thermal solar installation as support for heating, or by installing a photovoltaic solar plant in order to produce electricity. One of the Dutch projects that uses solar energy is Elkas (“electricity-producing greenhouse” in Dutch). Elkas is the first electricity-producing greenhouse in the world based on solar energy alone, and the concept has a lot of potential, since the plans are that it will be economically profitable within the next 5 years.

– Biomass.- Using manure and farm waste as fuel for energy production yields a considerable advantage in terms of cost compared with fossil fuels. However, there is still an important disadvantage: the initial investment in this kind of boiler is higher, so this must be balanced against the annual saving in fuel.

– Geothermal heat.- Using the heat of the deep layers of the earth in greenhouses. This can be done by conducting natural hot water through the greenhouse in order to increase the temperature inside the facilities, or it is also possible to use the heat by means of a heat-conductor fluid, which is placed in a pipe system previously laid under the soil. Vleestomaat Company greenhouses are an example of this use of warm water from the ground to grow tomatoes; this method saves the growers 80% of the energy normally used, 5 million m3 of natural gas and more than 10,000 tons of C02 per year.

Moreover, Dutch growers in the horticultural industry are seeking to adapt production to the changing conditions. For instance, “they are considering the development of the floating greenhouse, an ingenious solution to the problems of a limited land surface area and the growing dependence on water in built-up areas,” the Made in Holland magazine reports.

Gerda Verburg, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, is also confident about the future of energy-producing greenhouses: “I can see opportunities for the energy-producing greenhouse in urban areas in particular, where homes and other properties have to be heated. In those areas, there is not only a major demand for intensive food production, but also good potential for bringing energy supply and energy demand into line with one another.”

With respect to the future of the sector, Mr. Dick Kramp, Marketing Program Manager for GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engines, highlighted the increasing trend towards local production, optimising local resources and minimizing environmental impact:

“In my opinion, the future will involve growing vegetables locally to avoid transportation costs and C02 emission. Production close to the consumer will be the future trend. The establishment of green ports next to big cities. Dutch growers will found foreign establishments to be a part of this new development. The first example is the Thanet Earth project in Kent, where 3 Dutch growers grow peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to serve the UK market. This green port will be a model of production, logistics and energy, drawing on state-of-the-art technologies from the Netherlands.”

[checklist icon=”” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Energy Optimization in European Greenhouses, Greenergy 6th framework programme[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Agriholland.nl[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Facts and Figures on the Dutch Agri-Sector 2008, from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Holland trade, EVD, Agency for International Business and Cooperation[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]The Dutch Outlook regarding the European Agricultural Policy 2020 (September 2008), Dutch Ministry of Agriculture[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Energy savings and efficiency in greenhouses, Spanish Ministry of Agriculture[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]CHP in the Netherlands, presentation by Jan Korff[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]CBS, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Den Haag/Heerlen 2-7-2009[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Dutch agriculture and horticulture with a glance at South Korea, Report 2009-039[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]The Netherlands, Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2007, Europe.eu[/li_item]

[checklist icon=”” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Dick Kramp, Marketing Program Manager, GE Energy, Jenbacher gas engines, at the Greenergy summit, April 2009[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Erik Van Berkum, General Manager for Hoogendoorn America Inc.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Rik Lootens, Syngenta Seeds Vegetables[/li_item]

Syngenta Peppers Today Newsletter 16 – July 2009

OCAP Organic Carbon dioxide for Assimilation of Plants

CO2 in horticultural greenhouses

Plants grow under the influence of light and use water and CO2 as raw materials for their photosynthesis. In the competitive horticultural market, the use of CO2 in a greenhouse is considered to be a major instrument in increasing production. In the Netherlands the CO2 requirement is primarily met by using CO2 in the form of flue gasses from the heating system (boiler). Natural gas is therefore burnt on a large-scale in the Netherlands in horticultural greenhouses during the summer. This technique, however, provides limited quality with respect to CO2, because it`s limited in capacity and is not always environmentally friendly. Horticulturists can use some of the heat that is released but in many cases the heat is lost (summer heating).ocap002

Minimum costs and high quality CO2 from OCAP

Faster growth of your greenhouse crop
Higher yield per square meter
Better planning of crop production
Better crop quality
Insured against damage of none pure CO2 which is contaminated with etheen or NOx.

The mission of OCAP

OCAP,is a joint venture between gas supplier Linde Gas Benelux and VolkerWessels . OCAP supplies pure CO2 to greenhouse companies. This CO2 is produced during the production of hydrogen at Shell in the Botlek and would otherwise be expelled into the atmosphere. OCAP supplies this CO2 via an existing pipeline and a new distribution network. This enables horticulturists to save about 95 million cubic metres of natural gas per year. And it also reduces CO2 emissions by about 170,000 tons per year. It is therefore a unique form of cooperation. For both the environment and greenhouse horticulture.

The idea of supplying the CO2 that was emitted during the production of hydrogen to glasshouse horticulturists was conceived in 1994. In 2002, Syens Energy worked out this initiative of linking demand with supply and economics with the environment. Their mission was: ‘to meet the requirement for CO2 in greenhouse horticulture in an environmentally-friendly way through the distribution and delivery of the pure CO2 which is released from the refinery’.

VolkerWessels and Linde Gas Benelux have undertaken this initiative which is unique in the world. They are supplying the CO2 which is released during the production of hydrogen to greenhouse horticulturists. The CO2 supply operation has been placed with a joint company called OCAP (Organic Carbondioxide for Assimilation of Plants).

The OCAP solutions

The horticulturist has high-quality CO2 made available to him in large quantities for the maintenance of the best possible concentration of CO2 in the greenhouse. The increase in production achieved by this increases the competitive position of the horticulturist. At the same time the burden on the environment (the natural gas consumption) is lessened per unit. This saves about 95 million m3 of natural gas on an annual basis.

The CO2 which is emitted by the Shell refinery is put to good use and this lowers CO2 emissions. There is a total reduction of CO2 emission by 170,000 tons per year. These reductions can make a considerable contribution to the targets in the field of CO2 emission reduction which were set in the Kyoto protocol.

CO2 in the Botlek

At the Shell refinery in the Botlek area, (almost) pure CO2 is expelled into the atmosphere on a large scale. The CO2 is released during the production of hydrogen, a crucial process in the refinery. Many kilotons of CO2 are emitted each year. This CO2 can be used directly in greenhouse horticulture.

Delivery area

The company delivers around 160,000 kg of CO2 per hour to 500 horticultural companies which is around 1300 hectares of greenhouses between Rotterdam and The Hague.


The CO2 that is supplied to the horticulturists is purchased from Shell. The CO2 gas is pressurized using a compressor. OCAP discovered an existing old pipeline that was used to transport oil between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, but was out of service for 25 years. The use an existing 85 km transport pipeline was vital for the project to keep the cost down and make it faster profitable. The old pipeline runs alongside a number of major greenhouse horticultural areas and OCAP still had to build a distribution grid of smaller pipes running to the individual greenhouses.

Distribution and delivery

The delivery areas are connected to the existing transport pipeline. To do this OCAP has laid an extensive new pipeline network which connects each customer to the CO2 network.

Facts and figures

Horticulture in the Netherlands
Total area: 10,000 hectares.
Total turnover: € 8.5 billion export value.

Number of hectares that qualify for CO2 from OCAP: approx. 5,000 hectares.

The distribution network
NPM pipeline (NPM): 85 kilometres.
Main pipeline (steel): 12 kilometres.
Distribution pipeline (HDPE): 130 kilometres.
Delivery stations situated at the horticulturists: 500.

The delivery
Total connected service area: approx. 1,300 hectares.
Total supply capacity: approx. 160 tons per hour.
Total delivery: approx. 300,000 tons per year.

Environmental benefit
95 million m3 natural gas saving on a yearly basis untill 2012. From January 2012 115 million m3 of natural gas is saved.

170,000 tons CO2 emission reduction until 2011, 205,00 tons CO2 emission reduction since January 2012 with the second source becoming operational

Linde Gas Benelux and VolkerWessels investment
100 million euros first phase 35 million 2nd phase

Project evaluation

The project is very successful, when started in 2004 it was estimated that in 2008 the maximum production capacity of 160 ton CO2 per hour would have been achieved. Although this was very ambitious at that time OCAP achieved in February 2007 the maximum capacity already. Biggest problems for OCAP and the growers is constant supply as there are drops in supply or Shell is not producing enough CO2 than growers in are having problem with feeding enough CO2 to there plants. As there is still more demand from the growers in the Netherlands OCAP is now looking for alternative resources to produce CO2.

CO2 acts as a “sort of fertilizer” to speed up vegetable growth

Greenhouse vegetables grows about 25% faster when the concentration of CO2 is doubled. In greenhouse farming the CO2 for CO2 fertilisation is increasingly often delivered by several sources, such as burner/boiler, CHP, OCAP and pure CO2.

Update August 2012clip_image002


New investments by OCAP in 2012

On 1st of January 2012 OCAP started permanently using their installation at the second CO2 source which is located at bio-ethanol producer Abengoa. The 500 greenhouse growers which are buying their CO2 from OCAP will have a more reliable supply, during maintenance or production problems one CO2 source can most of the time supply sufficient to cope with demand. Also OCAP can now extend their market by starting to supply growers in the Zuidplaspolder and Eneco.

OCAP has Invested 35 million Euro in the second supply source and in extending their distribution network. The Dutch government has subsidized 5 million Euro from their sustainability budget with the goal achieving the Kyoto protocol.