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Greenhouses go greener

PV in greenhouses copy

Abu Dhabi / Emirates Business

Plans for self-sufficient greenhouses that enable the production of high-quality plants in sub-tropical regions affected by water scarcity will be unveiled by leading agricultural experts at Abu Dhabi’s Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) on Tuesday.
Saving water while utilising renewable energy sources, such as solar power, wind, biomass and geothermal energy is vital for sustainable greenhouse farming in the desert conditions of the UAE, and a new range of self-sufficient greenhouses have the ability to change the way Middle East farmers grow crops.
Ruben Garcia, International Manager at Eltac-Hydrofarm, the creators of the Zelula Zero project, believes that the
only solution for green
houses to be environmentally-friendly and sustainable is by making them entirely energy self-sufficient.
Speaking ahead of his presentation in the upcoming Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA), February 16-17 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Garcia said: “Currently, greenhouses’ installations use too much energy to operate their artificially-generated microclimates and only greenhouses with independent energy and water supply systems can offer sustainable, clean production units of vegetables.”
The examples of proposed solutions for optimising energy retention and management vary from photo-voltaic (PV) panels, wind maps, biomass boilers, to geothermal systems. Garcia added: “Wind maps can indicate whether the wind power will be able to cover the electricity needs while geothermal energy uses the ability of the land to remain at a constant temperature throughout the year to supply sustainable heating without any combustion and with reduced CO2 emissions.”
Scientists see the sub-tropical climate of the UAE and wider Middle East as highly advantageous for the energy production due to its high levels of solar energy available throughout the year. With appropriate innovations and techniques in place, sunlight can be used to address the water scarcity issue, too.
Johan Gruber, Engineer BS at Grutec Fibre, will also be addressing audiences at the GFIA and points out that with the use of PV solar energy can be effectively utilised to supply both the air-conditioning and watering needs of greenhouses.
He said: “Subtropical regions with their typical low moisture air and daily sunshine create perfect conditions for the use of sun-driven air-conditioning and since water in such areas is mostly rare and expensive, it is not an economical alternative to cool fresh air.
“The key technique for cooling a greenhouse and recycling its transpiration water is PV panels and screens as they help minimise fossil fuel-based energy use.”
According to a report published by the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in September 2015, a new generation of greenhouses can help save up to 90% of water, cut significantly on energy, and ensure five times higher productivity with zero pollution of groundwater than open farming.

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