- Vegetables: tomatoes
- Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy
Sustainable agriculture integrates three basic goals, “environmental stewardship, farm profitability and prosperous communities”. This concept will survive only through innovation and implementation of strategies that increase production and reduce negative environmental impacts. Unfavorable weather is a bane to farmers leading to financial instability. Growers are turning to greenhouse production to reduce loss due to poor weather and increase the length of the growing season. Though plastic hoop houses are inexpensive to erect, they demand large amounts of energy, especially in northern climates. As dairy profits decline, farmers are diversifying their operations with high-value greenhouse crops, which nationally generate >$14 billion in wholesale revenues annually. This project builds on our greenhouse network in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, partnering with growers to increase their sustainability through improved energy conservation in hoop houses. It combines Research by assessing two innovative energy-saving devices retrofitted into a greenhouse: a bubble insulation system and an energy/shade screen system; with Education through energy audits, a grower survey, a publication, web-based energy calculator and workshops to encourage conservation implementation. Led by Bruce L. Parker, Prof., UVM, this project links a team of experts: among them Extension specialists (VT, NH & ME), a greenhouse engineer (John W. Bartok, Jr.); solar and energy consultants (EnSave; E2G) to survey current energy use, determine ways to cost-effectively increase conservation, test novel strategies to reduce consumption; and encourage implementation through education and outreach.
Performance targets from proposal:
1. Compare the energy conservation potential of two energy saving systems: bubble insulation and energy/shade screens with a conventional greenhouse system.
2. Conduct a comprehensive education/outreach program in northern New England involving: a) survey of growers to determine the current status of energy use in the region, b) energy audits to develop guidelines for energy conservation strategies, c) grower workshops to present energy conservation information, d) production of a greenhouse energy conservation guide, and e) establish a web-based program for growers to calculate energy cost savings.
Over 1,650 growers will receive information about energy conservation in greenhouses. Of the total growers receiving information, 5% (~80 growers) will implement at least one recommended tactic in one 2,000 sq ft greenhouse (total 160,000 sq ft), resulting in an annual reduction of energy cost of $500 per greenhouse grower operation. One grower per state (3 growers) will retrofit at least one greenhouse with either a bubble or thermal blanket insulation system, resulting in a yearly cost savings in fuel use of $1,000.