Greenhouse management, also known as “protected cropping” in Australia, is an advancing industry. But there are many different types of greenhouses — do you know how to choose the right one for your nursery or garden?
Our Certificate of Greenhouse Management is ideal for gardeners, horticulturalists and nursery retailers and wholesalers. It will give you insights into managing a greenhouse for successful crop production and controlling climate, pest and diseases. You will also learn about irrigation techniques and lighting, growing systems and equipment and greenhouse automation systems.
Outcomes achieved by undertaking a greenhouse management course include:
- Learning about the types of greenhouses and greenhouse designs for commercial nursery production
- Exploring Venlo, Mansard, wide-span, multi-span and plastic clad tunnels/igloo designs
- Gaining an understanding of sawtooth, single-span and retractable roof designs
- Studying greenhouse construction and materials including framing and covering materials
- Examining appropriate greenhouses for nurseries and how to site greenhouses
- Understanding greenhouse benching, environmental control and plant needs
- Attaining knowledge of natural light, growing media, environmental controls and environmental factors affecting plant growth
- Gaining insights into air temperature, moisture and misting, moisture and fog, computerised environmental controls and intelligent environmental controllers
- Learning about growing systems and equipment
- Exploring soil and soil-less culture, nutrient formulations and fertiliser salts for formulations
- Gaining an understanding of formulas for different systems, the types of formulations, measuring conditions inside a greenhouse and weather, climate and water sensors
- Studying nutrition sensing, environmental control systems, thermostats and timers, analog “step” and computer zone controllers and integrated computer control (ICC)
- Examining how to get plants to flower out of season
- Understanding the types of flowering response to temperature
- Attaining knowledge of ways to cause controlled flowering and the principles affecting rates and progress of flowering
- Exploring leakage loss, heating systems and localised heating systems
- Gaining an understanding of unit, convection, electric, radiant and solar heaters
- Studying composting organic matter, soil or bench warming units and centralised heating and ventilation systems
- Examining water management, greenhouse irrigation and objectives, solid and water types and gravitational, capillary and hygroscopic water
- Examining how to manage light and the importance of lighting in a greenhouse
- Gaining an understanding of facts, vents, evaporative cooling, air circulation, humidity control and fog systems
- Studying automation and robotics in greenhouse production
- Examining remote sensing, direct method, computerised environmental controls, robots, drones, cloud IOT-based monitoring systems and wireless sensor networks
- Understanding the components and structure of wireless sensor networks and the STAR (single point-to-multipoint) network
- Attaining knowledge of data logging, data gathering in WSN, automating irrigating techniques and the Mesh and Hybrid networks
Protected Cropping – Current Technologies and Target Crops
Greenhouse horticulture, which includes greenhouse management, is also referred to as “protected cropping” in Australia, and it is the production of horticultural crops under, within or sheltered by structures to provide modified growing conditions and/or protection from diseases, pests and adverse weather. Protected Cropping Australia Ltd (PCA) is the peak industry body representing commercial hydroponic and greenhouse growers Australia-wide.
If Australia is to bolster its food production in the face of climate change and deliver healthy food sustainably, it needs to produce more with less. Protected cropping offers a way to do this. However, to make this way of farming economically viable in Australia, we need to consider the status of
protected cropping in the context of available technologies and targeted horticultural crops.
Global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion in 2050, with the majority of growth forecast to occur in large urban centres across the world. To feed this projected urban population, we will need to increase food production by at least 60 per cent, while minimising the impact of this production on the environment.
Despite prolonged drought and widespread bushfires in 2019, the value of farm production reached $59 billion over 2019–2020 in Australia due to higher commodity prices. However, extreme heatwaves and low water availability in major growing regions over this period reduced Australian summer crop, fruit and vegetable production. These factors will compel innovations in future food production systems so as to meet demand for food, locally and globally, in the next few decades.
Current techniques and technologies
As you may discover when doing a course in greenhouse management, protected cropping is Australia’s fastest-growing food-producing sector, with huge growth potential. In comparison to other nations, Australia has a relatively greater number of advanced greenhouse facilities, producing fresh fruit and vegetables for export.
However, it does require scientific and technological solutions to become a key global player. Currently, commercially oriented indoor farm facilities can be categorised into three levels of technological advancement: low-, medium- and high-tech. Some of the more recent innovations in Australia include:
New technologies for low-tech poly-tunnels
Growing systems incorporating low-tech poly-tunnels account for 80 to 90 percent of global greenhouse crop production. However, these low-tech facilities have several limitations, with regard
to the control of pests, climate and fertigation. Technological solutions can help growers make the transition from low-tech systems into more productive, profitable medium- or high-tech facilities producing high-quality crops with minimal resources.
Low-tech protected-cropping facilities encompass various types of poly-tunnels, which can range from makeshift metal structures with plastic coverings to permanent, purpose-built structures. The plastic covers protect crops from rain, hailand cold weather and extend the growing season.
However, while they make sense for small farms, poly-tunnel facilities suffer from several shortcomings.
Generally, these facilities are not controlled, beyond lifting the plastic covering when it gets too cloudy or hot outside. This lack of environmental control affects the consistency of the product, with regard to both quality and size, therefore reducing market access to demanding customers such as restaurants and supermarkets. Given that crops under low-tech poly-tunnel facilities are generally planted in the soil, these farmers also have to combat numerous pests and soil-borne diseases.
Incentives and support from funding bodies, coupled with practical technological innovations (such as new methods of biological control, and solutions for the partial automation of tasks (like irrigation and temperature control) could help growers currently using low-tech protected-cropping systems transition to using more technologically advanced ones.
Medium-tech protected cropping is a broad category encompassing controlled-environment greenhouses and glasshouses. This part of the protected cropping sector requires significant technological upgrades if it is to compete with large-scale food production in farms using high-tech greenhouses.
The environmental control in medium-tech greenhouses is usually partial or intensive and the temperature of some greenhouses can be controlled by manually opening the roof, while more advanced facilities have cooling and heating units. The use of solar panels and “smart glass” are also being investigated to reduce energy costs and carbon footprints in medium-tech greenhouses.
Other innovations include introducing new crop genotypes with high yield and quality, integrated pest management, fully automated fertigation and greenhouse climate control, and robotic assistance in crop management and harvesting.
High-tech glasshouses can incorporate the latest technological advances in fertigation, crop physiology, lighting and recycling. In large-scale commercial greenhouses, for example, “smart glass” technology, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and supplemental lighting, such as LED panels, can be used to improve crop quality and yields.
Producers are also increasingly automating critical and/or labour-intensive areas such as pollination, crop monitoring and harvesting. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (MI) are also opening up new dimensions for high-tech greenhouses. Powerful algorithms are being used to monitor crop health and recognise signs of disease, including via computers and mobile devices.
Moreover, labour-management software systems for large-scale high-tech greenhouses will optimise the efficiency of workers and improve the economic prospects of these businesses.
2021, Protected Cropping. Current Future Food Systems
Feel confident to grow nursery stock, edible crops and other horticultural plant products in a greenhouse with agreenhouse management course, such as our Certificate of Greenhouse Management.