Environmental control systems have proven to be a key element for indoor and greenhouse growers, helping users to improve plant quality, control temperature and other variables, collect useful data and be an important labor-saving tool; however, only well-designed systems will elevate an operation to optimal efficiency levels.
What is a well-designed automation system?
A well-designed automation system is a fully integrated system. There are things that affect your grow and the yield of your crop, such as different watering techniques, fertilizer systems, lighting, venting, heating, and cooling approaches. The more of these methods you include under one platform, the better position you will be in when it comes to automation.
Implementing these systems allows you to know how equipment is affecting different dynamics within the the grow, and you’ll have a macro and micro view of everything from what your horticultural facility is doing to what your equipment and mechanical systems in a specific zone are performing. Such a system will constantly collect data. Having this data will be key to help you drive desired results as you achieve more sustainable practices and greater efficiency. Having the data integrated with what each piece of equipment is doing is helpful. You can have pre-programmed parameters to know that everything is operating within their pre-designed setpoints and operating conditions, so you can focus on the things that are not working within that dead band. It helps you optimize so you can spend more time with the crop.
Predictive algorithms are an advantage of a high-end control system. They can consider outdoor climate conditions and anticipate what you need and where you need to be with your equipment, rather than you needing to figure it out. It allows for the environment to not have a hiccup and tries to follow setpoints as closely as possible to keep it optimized. Ultimately, you are chasing optimal environmental needs which vary from cultivar to cultivar. If you want to chase a certain vapor pressure deficit (VPD), it is going to be difficult without a good control system. Powdery mildew in your crop can be very detrimental while stressed plants are more susceptible to this and other pathogens. Therefore, if your control system does not do much – perhaps opens and closes some ridge vents but doesn’t go into deep parameters like VPD – you’ll have a harder time optimizing your operation and reaching your sustainability goals. If you have a well-designed control system, you can measure parameters like your outside temperature and what the RH is. When you start to look at psychrometrics, you can determine what kind of equipment (i.e. heaters) you would need to utilize to bring that down to both your temperature and RH setpoints. Those calculations and decisions can be automated and made for you.
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