Membrane Usage For Water Conservation To Optimize Sustainable Agriculture

By Steven Peck, Ben Weaver, Richard Franks, John Wammes, and Richard Vanderburg


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Houweling’s Tomatoes, located near Oxnard, CA, is one of the most efficient growers of tomatoes in the world, producing 20 times more fruit per acre than conventional farms. Houweling’s tomatoes are grown inside large 20-acre greenhouses through sustainable operations that include renewable energy, pesticide reduction, and recirculation/reuse of water.

As one of the largest greenhouse-based growers in North America, Houweling’s Nurseries constructed the first large-scale vegetable greenhouse in California in 1996. Over the ensuing years, the company built additional facilities now totaling 50 hectares. The tomatoes are all grown hydroponically, in the absence of soil. The lack of soil eliminates competitive weeds and hence eliminates the need for herbicides. Further, the semi-enclosed greenhouses are operated under positive air pressure, which inhibits the influx of pests; thereby diminishing the use of pesticides. The plants are pollinated with bumblebees that are brought into the greenhouses in boxes.

The Oxnard facility generates renewable power using a 5-acre solar photovoltaic hybrid system. The system generates close to 2.1 megawatt of electricity needed to provide more than 50% of the facility's energy needs. Water is used to heat and control the temperature of the greenhouses, with heat collected from the solar thermal array and warehouse refrigeration exhaust stored in million-gallon hot water storage tanks and circulated though the facility. Proprietary computer control systems were developed to give growers real-time control capabilities of all growth variables including humidity, temperature, circulation, light and CO2.

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