"Zero Carbon" Footprint

Regardless of location, greenhouse production remains the most intensive agricultural process known. Iris Solar Systems are working towards helping the farming and agricultural community. We want to help farmers and landowners gain the highest returns from our "Zero Carbon" footprint technology and the highest farm gate prices.

Greenhouse production is intensive in terms of labor. It is intensive in terms of capital since the erection of a covering over ground is a large investment whatever location and requires money to purchase and operate.

In temperate climates, greenhouses, by the very nature of their current design structure, are large energy consumers. If all inputs are converted to energy terms, we see that, for energy efficiency, primitive slash and bum agriculture has the highest energy return (ER=65).

Most modem agriculture pursuits require more energy input than is gained. Of course, the assumption is that an energy unit from human labor is equal in value to an energy unit from fossil fuel on a physical basis. Whether it is so from a monetary standpoint is an argument we will not address.

Greenhouses are the worst from an environmentalist's viewpoint. This was one of the driving forces behind the IRIS Solar's engineering concept of a "Zero Carbon" Footprint greenhouse system. Since electrical generation is about 40% efficient, and usable irradiation from the most efficient, high-intensity lamps is about 40%, then conversion of a fossil fuel to energy in a form useable by a plant is less than 20% efficient.

Design Concepts

Some of the design concepts we felt were mandatory in a new greenhouse system:
  • One design suitable in varied climates from the Equator to the Northern Latitudes (-40C to +40C temperature ranges) 12 months a year operation in those climates and maintain its "Zero Carbon" footprint
  • Energy self sufficient
  • Self heating
  • The ability to produce its own water supply
  • Fully automated, remote systems for control of nutrients, lighting, misting and watering, fire protection, yield monitoring, etc
  • Produce more food per square meter than any system on the market
  • 100% organic nutrient system
  • Zero pesticide use
  • 100% recycling of all organic waste
  • Each unit should communicate with all other units to maintain highest output and highest economic returns to operators

When we consider the fact that conversion of radiant energy by photosynthesis to a saleable economic unit is less than 10%, then the total process has less than a 2% efficiency! As world food prices are steadily increasing, we knew we had to change this.

Environmentally speaking, it would be better to place all greenhouse production in regions having many clear days (e.g.. arid or semiarid climates). There is an improvement in efficiency at lower altitudes (Israel at 32° versus England at 55* N) [Enoch, 1978b]. Sadly world populations do not live in these regions.

Nevertheless, economics dictate in our existing context, that such agricultural pursuits are profitable, and will, therefore, be used. Nor, do we think we wish to return to a nomadic, hunter culture. The only good thing about the "good" old days is that they are gone.

Floriculture Crops Report

U.S.D.A. Floriculture Crops Report.
Gross wholesale value per square meter for selected crops.
$ per sq.m.
  Spray chrysanthemurms
  Standard chrysanthemums
  Standard carnations
  Mini carnations
  Cutting geraniums (pot)
  Seed geraniums (pot)
  Flats vegetable, bedding
  Florist azalea
  Potted chrysanthemums
46 01
  Hybrid tea roses
  Sweetheart roses
  Easter lilies
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