At the beginning of the year, the third ModulAIR platform took place at Sundrop Farms in South Australia. The platform was set up by Van der Hoeven to promote knowledge-sharing and to get the absolute most from the ModulAIR greenhouses. With the current number of participants standing at 26, the platform has grown considerably since its inception in 2016 with eight attendees. We interviewed one of the participants in the latest gathering in Australia: Phill Ritchie from Rijk Zwaan.
1. Can you tell us something about yourself? Education, profession?
I have worked for Rijk Zwaan (Australia) for the past 17 years.
Bsc (Bachelor of Science - Botany/Chemistry) Dip Ed Diploma of Education (Chemistry)
I am am Rijk Zwaan`s Sales Manager for the high tech glasshouse segment in Australia.
2. Was it your first time you joined semi- ModulAIR platform? How did you personally experience the ModulAIR Platform?
Yes it was the first time I have joined the ModulAIR platform with the one I attended being the third platform in the series. I thought that ModulAIR platform was an excellent opportunity for growers to discuss the semi- closed glasshouse with particular reference to the operation of the ModulAIR glasshouses in various climates from a range of locations around the world. The ModulAIR platform incorporated a series of presentations that dealt with a range of topics directly associated with semi-close ModulAIR glasshouse. It was a great chance to hear of developments within Van der Hoeven with respect to the ModulAIR glasshouse & also a detailed explanation of how this system works with reference to air flow, air pressure and correct ventilation etc. Van Dijk Heating presented an update on structural modifications benefitting air distribution within the ModulAIR glasshouse and we were very fortunate to have an in depth presentation from Godfrey Dol and Barry Feenstra from our host ModulAIR glasshouse, Sundrop Farms. Sundrop Farms having 20 ha of ModulAIR glasshouse which experiences a very hot and dry climate through summer presented a detailed examination of the ModulAIR glasshouse in comparison to a traditional glasshouse in terms of climate control and examined aspects such as air exchange, humidity deficit, airflow and fan speeds.
It was also great to see Vincent Kickert the R&D Manager at Van der Hoeven address all questions relating to the ModulAIR glasshouse from the grower group offering detailed explanations for all the topics raised. The grower group exchanged their own respective experiences with different crop types in the ModulAIR glasshouse and the challenges that have been faced in learning to grow with this new technology.
3. What is Rijk Zwaan’s opinion about the future of semi-closed greenhouses ? Both in Australia as worldwide.
The technology associated with semi-closed glasshouses & the expansion of this new way of growing is a very recent development. We have seen the semi-closed glasshouse being successfully built and operated in climates not suited to traditional glasshouse structures and their number are increasing in a world market. Rijk Zwaan are looking closely at the plant types required for this type of glasshouse which may influence breeding directions for the future. In general terms the semi- closed glasshouse & its operation requires a strong and generative plant type.
4. The majority of semi-closed greenhouses is currently growing tomatoes. Which crops would also be suitable for growing in semi-closed greenhouses from your perspective?
Depending on the respective returns & operational costs for various crop types at a specific location , it is very likely so see an increase in other crops types, such as cucumbers, sweet peppers and lettuce being grown in the semi closed glasshouse. In certain climates, the semi closed glasshouse, in comparison to a traditional glasshouse systems, has seen higher CO2 levels, increased air movement and high crop speeds resulting in very high yields.