03 May | by Vegtech

Greenhouse Solutions Take Agricultural Sustainability Several Steps Forward

By: Eng. Omry Eiger, Netafim’s Greenhouses Activity

Sustainability is at the heart of Netafim’s activities. Throughout over 60 years of activity we have been constantly striving to educate the global market about the advantages of drip irrigation and how it enhances sustainability by producing more yield with less resources. But often people are not aware of the fact that greenhouses complement drip irrigation by taking the sustainability effects, mentioned above, several steps forward, increasing the yields even further with far less resources. In fact growing crops in greenhouses produces 6 to 10 times the amount of yield compared to growing them in open fields. This means that for each square meter of land or cubic meter of water used in a greenhouse, there is 6 to 10 times more yield compared to growing in an open field. These resources savings can be even furthered by recycling water and fertilizers. Crops that are grown hydroponically in greenhouses have relatively small roots, and therefore 40% of the drainage water can be recycled for reuse. Also, 40 to 50% of the fertilizers can be reused. 

Creating optimal growing conditions

Greenhouse projects can be found in all climate zones including hot, cold, moderate, and tropical climates. One of the greatest advantages of greenhouses is the ability to achieve optimal growing conditions. This is as opposed to open fields, where climate control is not possible.  For example, in the winter, when it is too cold to grow tomatoes outdoors, they can be grown in warmer conditions in a greenhouse. And in the hot summers, when it is too hot or dry to grow outside, humidity can be added to grow in the greenhouse. The ability to control the growing conditions also reduces the risks associated with sudden changes in weather conditions, creating adding security and predictability to the growers.  

Greenhouse crops require less pesticides

Growing inside greenhouses or crop protected houses with netting, requires 50% less pesticides  For this and other reasons, in various countries, such as the US /Canada/Germany/Holland/Japan , regulators have already begun requiring the growers of food crops, such as vegetables, to use greenhouses or crop protected houses.

Today we see more regulations requiring growers in greenhouses and crop protected houses to follow specific growing protocols. All processes must be monitored, crops must be of a required shape, size, and taste, and the amount of pesticide must be within a defined range and not administered prior to harvest. On the other hand, the greenhouses and crop protected houses provide growers with the security that they are growing and supplying quality produce according to market requirements. So it’s a win-win for both sides.

Greenhouses Provide Food Security in Emerging Countries

One of the common misconceptions about greenhouses is that it’s good for commercial/large scale growing of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, roses etc. Although it is true that these solutions provide risk mitigation for large commercial growers, but it can also provide food security for smallholders. And today there are simpler affordable greenhouse solutions for small investors/holders, such as our NFG (Netafim Family Greenhouses) solution, Greenhouse fully equipped with an irrigation system that enables small holders to grow in parallel several crops for their own consumption.

An example of how greenhouses provide food security for small investors is our recent project in India. Farmers in India cannot grow crops during the Monsoon. In order to alleviate this problem, we have provided greenhouse solutions, enabling the growing of crops in a secure and controlled environment during this seasonal change. Using greenhouses ensures that crops won’t be destroyed, especially where the climate is difficult or there is a lack of water.

In Africa, smallholders are also unable to grow crops in difficult climates. Netafim is bringing small greenhouses to Africa, so that smallholders can grow crops to feed their families or for very small commercial endeavours. For these families, it is a game changer, since they are finally able to grow with the limited resources that they have and at the same time ensure that their crops will not be damaged.

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