In a constant search for achieving more efficient processes, automated environmental controls have proven to be key for horticultural facilities as they help deliver a more consistent product, reduce costs, as well as meet production goals and desired quality of the product. Alex Fermon, Product Marketing Manager at Argus Controls talks about the considerations when automating your horticultural facility.
"Every facility is unique, and growers should assess what is the right level of automation needed to meet their expectations." Some key elements to have in mind while considering automated environmental controls are:
Plant Centric environmental controls
Environmental control systems specializing in horticulture have the plant as the focal point for all monitoring and control strategies within the room and provide growers with production modeling systems that respond to the plant’s needs and are more likely to directly control the environment to tighter tolerances while delivering more precise controls for processes inherent to horticulture. Building Management Solutions (BMS), for example, are usually intended for managing the climate of buildings typically with human occupancy requirements in mind.
A control system that fully integrates your entire facility
Your environmental controls should seamlessly integrate entire facilities and any combination of greenhouse zones, plant growth chambers, growth rooms, aquaculture containments, vernalization rooms, bulb conditioning, and other specialized environments. Also, they should fully integrate the operation of your equipment, including HVAC units, roof vents, curtain systems, lighting, and carbon dioxide dosing systems.
An environmental control system tailored to your specific needs
Every horticultural operation is unique, as such, a system designed specifically for it will bring the best results. "Systems such as Argus Controls allow to adjust any program at any time while also providing the capacity of expanding the controls system as the operation continues to grow. In contrast, other automation solutions provide specific programs aiming to make the grow process simpler for a specific crop; however, these programs may lack the flexibility of easily adjusting to the specific user needs and, in some cases, modifying them can be costly."
Software and data collection
The environmental control system software should provide, together with hardware, a powerful and integrated solution for managing your entire horticultural facility from greenhouse and physical plant operations to fertigation systems, grow rooms and growth chambers, nurseries and propagation zones. Some companies have developed modern web applications, to ensure easy access to the system to monitor, analyze and run the facility in real time while working remotely or away from your desk. "Argus Live provides a great example of a seamless and efficient user interface."
Another key element is ensuring your system provides continuous recording of all settings, readings and crop parameters as well as monitoring your equipment constantly. It should collect all the necessary data to measure light, carbon dioxide, oxygen, VPD, DU, PH, EC, moisture, water flow, leachate volumes, air and soil temperature, and photosynthesis.
Your control system should be reliable
Automated control is a complex subject and having a reliable system with the right service support and proven experience in the market is very important. Taking Argus Controls as an example, the components of the system are generally more reliable than the equipment it controls. "Consequently, much of our service and support time is devoted to helping customers troubleshoot issues that are ultimately caused by malfunctions in their equipment systems. Often the Argus system is the first to detect problems such as failing pumps, stuck valves, etc."
Customer support and service
It is important to ensure that your environmental controls provider offers 24/7 support and has the ability to help you in a timely manner, with the ability to assist you remotely, especially when considering potential crop threatening emergencies.
For more information:
Argus Control Systems
#101 – 18445 53 Ave.
Surrey, British Columbia
Canada V3S 7A4
T: +1 (604) 538-3531 or 1-800-667-2090 (toll-free in Canada and the USA)
F: +1 (604) 538-4728