“Siding is an absolute necessity for the culture in Alberta”
Big Marble Farms supplies a significant portion of the Canadian Prairie provinces with fresh vegetables. A remarkable achievement because greenhouse cultivation in the harsh climate here is a real challenge. Coverings on the roof of the greenhouse are an absolute requirement for success.
When asked what would happen if you had to forgo the use of pavers, Ryan Cramer, CEO of Big Marble Farms, smiled. “It’s quite impossible. Not using coatings is not an option. It would be detrimental. We have been using coatings from the very beginning. The Medicine Hat company was founded a dozen years ago. Ryan has a partnership with his father and uncle. The company is experiencing significant growth. It was significantly expanded last year and now has 55 acres of glass.
“We grow tomatoes and cucumbers, and in addition, we sell products grown by colleagues, such as peppers, lettuce and eggplants. These are destined for the domestic market which, in addition to Alberta, includes Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We can sell the vegetables as local produce in the Prairie provinces, ”he says.
Culture all year round
The company was the first in the region to install assimilation lighting. This makes cultivation possible all year round. The climate of the Prairies is a real challenge in this regard. “We grow our crops as a semi-dessert: little rain and extreme temperatures of up to 40 ° C in summer and down to -40 ° C in winter. In addition, the temperatures are very variable, they can go up to + 12 ° C in winter. This means that we must constantly be flexible to meet these conditions. “
Frost forms on the windows in winter. This is above the energy screen and in itself is not necessarily a problem. However, the ice melts at some point and the water drops then become a challenge.
“After the harsh winter, temperatures can go up to 30 ° C, starting in May; that means we have to apply coatings at the start of the year. We consider outdoor temperatures up to 35 ° C to be manageable. The temperature inside the greenhouse would then be around 28 ° C. But above 35 ° C things get difficult. The 24 hour temperature would then rise too much, causing set problems and smaller than desirable leaves, ”he says. But the business is well prepared. The combination of plasters, a misting system and an energy screen makes it possible to effectively manage the greenhouse climate.
Big Marble Farms has always used siding. “In the past, it was ReduSol. While not bad, it still took away too much light. When ReduHeat and ReduFuse became available in the market, we started to experiment on our own. We have prepared a mixture of the two coatings to achieve the right result. When ReduFuse IR was introduced, this was no longer necessary. It is a very good coating. Tailored. It cuts off harmful rays and diffuses light. It’s the best of both worlds.
He applies this coating to greenhouse sections with standard glass. However, some 40 acres are now covered with diffuse glass. ReduHeat is used here.
“We are constantly refining our operations. We like to apply a thin layer in April, around 50% of the normal concentration. This is because we are aiming for as much light as possible. Before the heat of summer, we refuel.
Besides the heat, the extremely low humidity of the prairie climate also affects crops. Sometimes the relative humidity is only 10% – greenhouse crops are barely able to withstand such conditions. But Ryan takes good care of his plants. “We can handle it,” he said. “Coatings lower the temperature. Misting creates a good climate and curtains are in place to handle extreme situations and protect young plants in August / September. Thus, the company grows tasty and healthy vegetables for the whole region.
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