Future Crops

Friday, June 5, 2009

"High-tech facilities hoard water, generate electricity and produce 20 times more tomatoes per acre than conventional farms. But the seed money needed is also far greater."

I went thru this news and was in the mood of sharing it with you all ,its really fascinating and shows that farmers are always ahead in taking all the risks against all odds.
Here are the few excerpts including photos from the news published by Los Angeles times


The nation grows less than $1 billion worth of greenhouse fruits and vegetables annually.
Designed by Kubo Greenhouse Projects, a Dutch company, the temperature- and humidity-controlled glass-sheeted farm is expected to produce 482 tons of tomatoes per acre, 15% more than Houweling's previous generation of greenhouses. The plants live far longer than field crops and are replaced every six months.

Virtually nothing is wasted in this ecosystem. Workers have dug a four-acre pond to store rainwater and runoff. This water, along with condensation, is collected, filtered and recirculated back to each of the 20-acre greenhouses. That has cut water use to less than one-fifth of that required in conventional field cultivation. Fertilizer use has been reduced by half. There are no herbicides and almost no pesticides, and there is no dust.

California will probably become the center of greenhouse agriculture. With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, the climate provides an ideal year-round growing opportunity and keeps volumes high. Mild weather limits heating and cooling expenses. California's existing farm infrastructure also gives it an advantage over other locales.

The plants, which are fed individually through tubing that looks like intravenous hospital equipment, produce 20 times more fruit per acre than in conventional field production.

Five-acres of photovoltaic solar cells supply much of the electricity to run pumps and climate controls. Thermal systems collect solar heat and warehouse refrigeration exhaust to warm the greenhouses on cool evenings. Together, the two systems generate 2.1 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,500 homes.

Although they need just a fraction of the land taken up by conventional farming, greenhouses require far greater capital investment. The expansion to Houweling's Camarillo farm -- which includes the two greenhouses; the climate, energy and environmental technology; and a new packing plant -- amounts to about $1 million an acre, not including the land.

President Casey Houweling stands high above the crop in one of his new greenhouses, where pickers climb instead of stooping.

A picture of nursery hothouse buit by the farmers at Camarillo.

The facility generates its own renewable power. It hoards rainwater. It hosts its own bumblebees for pollination. And it requires a fraction of the chemicals used in neighboring fields to coax plants to produce like champions.Houweling said he expected the investment to take as long as 10 years to pay off, depending on the price of tomatoes. More tomato-linked salmonella scares and bad weather during the growing season in Florida would shorten the pay-back period.
These farms will have to be energy efficient -- tapped into renewable or co-generation energy -- to deal with the colder fall and spring climates, and they won't be year-round. There isn't enough sunlight from November through February to grow hothouse crops in big enough volume to pay for the heating bill.

Site Meter