The Virtual Greenhouse
Growers can now build and heat a "virtual" greenhouse -- or upgrade
existing greenhouses -- on a computer, to find out how much it would
cost to heat with different fuels, heating schedules, heaters, building
designs and materials.
by Agricultural Research Service researchers with the ARS Greenhouse
Production Research Group at Toledo, Ohio, the "Virtual
Grower" software is available
for download free of charge.
A plant component is being added to the computer program so
growers can see the effects of their heating choices and schedules not
only on costs, but also on their plants.
The software is gradually
being expanded to include all other aspects of greenhouse management,
including applications of nutrients, water, growth regulators and
pesticides. Ultimately, it will also help growers manage labor,
optimize plant productivity and set sale prices.
There are many individual programs like this, but none that considers
all of these factors interacting together, as this one eventually will.
estimate energy requirements and costs using Virtual
input the dimensions of their greenhouse and its construction
materials, such as poured-concrete floor, glass sides and roof, or
concrete-block walls. They also choose design features, such as roof
shape and orientation to the sun.
historical database gives a year's
worth of typical weather for the city nearest to the greenhouse
location -- including factors such as temperature, sunlight and cloud
cover -- for each hour of the day.
Growers choose a heating schedule and set the temperatures they want to
maintain during day and night, or for each hour. The program then
calculates per-square-foot heating costs by the month or year.
Grower is a work in progress,
growers are invited to e-mail
questions or suggestions to help the research tea fine-tune the tool
for managing greenhouses for greater productivity at lower costs.
and Greenhouse Supplies