When Beverly Greenhouses built their two-acre propagation facility two years ago near Dundas, Ontario it wasn’t long until Grodan GroSens monitors were installed in the stone wool slabs. The wireless device logs data every three minutes for water content (WC), electrical conductivity (EC) and temperature in the substrate. What happens in the wool substrate impacts the functioning of the root zone.
“It was a turning point for us in understanding the exponential growth of seedlings,” says Jan VanderHout. “The needs for water are immense, especially in the last week before transplanting.”
The collected data is critical in adjusting inputs for the fast-growing cucumber plants, especially since the greenhouse is built on cascading floors. The floor is not flooded but must be managed for a precise amount of water to reach the root zone. In winter, it’s easy to overwater. Too wet conditions invite diseases such as Pythium.
Grodan, the monitor manufacturer, has introduced a web-based application which allows the operator’s smartphone to be connected to the farm’s servers. On-site or off-farm, the operator can check real-time conditions in the propagation greenhouse.
“It’s technology like this that has allowed us to control and adjust the environmental conditions within our propagation greenhouse,” says VanderHout. “We have total control over our pest control program for thrips, white flies and spider mites. We have not had to use any chemical controls since our propagation greenhouse opened two years ago.”