A&L Biologicals’ Agroecology Research Service Center serves as a research facility dedicated to the detection of microorganisms that affect agricultural production. With plant root health as its primary objective, A&L Biologicals seeks to provide clients with research and innovative technology that increases plant production while also reducing costs. Through their research, A&L aims to develop molecular diagnostic tools that allow growers to understand the pathogens affecting their crops and how to create solutions.
Based in Ontario, Canada, A&L Biological has experienced significant challenges during its continued facility expansion in part due to the cold Canadian climate and its effects on plant growth. MineARC Systems’ Biora has worked alongside A&L to provide solutions to the challenges presented.
"There was a lack of indoor space available," the team with the company explains. "Additionally, the regional weather conditions were rather extreme." Therefore, the team has come up with the solutions addressing the different challenges.
"Developed and installed an outdoor chamber capable of withstanding extremely low temperatures, while maintaining controlled set points in the growth space," they point out. "Sensitive chamber components vital to maintaining a stable internal environment also had to be able to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations of the Canadian climate. As the temperature changes throughout the year, the chamber had to be able to adjust to the temperatures of their designated location."
"The chamber is equipped with insulated panels to minimize heat transfer with the environment. The chamber design requires fresh air exchange up to 10 ACH (air changes per hour), which would expose the controlled environment to the often-harsh external climate. This potentially significant temperature/humidity difference is mitigated by utilizing Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV), which uses the expelled internal air to pre-condition incoming fresh air, ultimately reducing the overall load on the air conditioning system. Lastly, heated floors were incorporated to supplement radiant heat to the room to further stabilize the temperatures within the chamber."
On top of that, they have designed ventilation and A/C to improve air circulation and maintain desired air exchange rate without introducing turbulent conditions to the plants. "MineARC provided A&L Biologicals with a custom approach to air handling to reduce internal airspeed and improve air circulation in the unit without sacrificing fresh air exchange. Included was a custom-sized energy recovery system to reduce and modulate airspeed and specifically designed air exchanger to maintain ideal gas exchange in a large space."
Also, in order to remotely monitor and control the chambers, the company has implemented a controller. "Casual monitoring or changing of set conditions inside the growth space would have been relatively inconvenient if users had to walk through freezing temperatures to access the controller within the chamber. With remote access available from their office desktop, it was merely a matter of logging onto the remote program to view or download condition data, check alarms or make changes to conditions inside."
MineARC’s focus on the local ambient climate, environmental conditions to be maintained, and the budgetary constraints expressed by the client played a vital role in the success of the project. After a year using the Biora growth chamber, A&L Biologicals plans to purchase two additional units to continue the expansion of their plant growth facilities.
“As Director of Research at A&L Biologicals I and my staff are extremely pleased at the efficiency and the value of the Biora Growth Chamber. It has excellent temperature and air handling properties and the plants thrive in the environment that chamber offers them. It is very utilitarian, easy to keep clean; water is available inside and it has performed well under even the coldest temperatures we experienced this winter,” George Lazarovits, Research Director, A&L Biologicals, says.