By Rita Sterne, PhD, project manager
Greenhouse Technology Network
Did you know that modern greenhouses are largely automated and highly controlled environments to produce safe and fresh food and flowers? We are lucky here in Niagara to live close to one of the most vibrant and productive clusters of greenhouses in North America.
Led by Niagara College, the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is a consortium of research centres helping greenhouse growers and related technology businesses solve technology-related challenges – with funding available to support applied research projects. Technologies are tools, equipment, or machines – in addition to methods, systems, or techniques for helping plants grow better, keeping costs down, and maximizing efficiencies that increase sustainability.
The modern greenhouse uses technologies across many activities, for example, plant propagation, growing, harvesting, and packaging processes. Vertical farms, often located in urban centres or remote locations, have capitalized on these technologies to bring food production closer to consumers.
Here are a few interesting examples of greenhouse-related technologies that help put safe, fresh food on our table, and beautiful plants in our homes and gardens:
- • Automated heating and cooling systems that support optimal growing conditions for each plant crop
- • Systems that regulate water and nutrient recipes specifically for different plant crops
- • Networks of sensors in the greenhouse that feed information to growers and help them monitor growing conditions across—and to the top of—the largest greenhouses
- • Computer software and apps that help growers stay in touch with conditions inside the greenhouse 24/7/365
- • Artificial intelligence embedded in many technologies can improve sustainability and further lower a grower’s carbon footprint
- • Drone technology now allows smart, airborne robots to play a role in a grower’s pest management strategy, for example, drones that can distinguish a moth from a bee — and take action
The Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is a Niagara College-led consortium of three institutions, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario): NC’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC), the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF) and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.
To learn more about the GTN or apply for project funding, visit the website: greenhousetechnetwork.ca