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Emission-free smart greenhouse farming: increasing tomato production while reducing energy needs in a closed greenhouse system using an ECS

Alternative title: Økt tomatproduksjonen og redusert energibehov i et lukket veksthussystem ved hjelp av et klimakontrollsystem (ECS)

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

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Project Period:

2023 - 2026

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Fresh fruit and vegetables are popular all year round. They are often imported from countries with lower labour costs but can lead to a high environmental impact. In Norway, greenhouse production can increase self-sufficiency in Norway, where the use of fossil energy is the greatest environmental burden. New technology makes it possible to develop climate-neutral Norwegian greenhouse production. In Norway, light and CO2 are the factors that limit yield and quality. Adding light, in the form of LED lights, and CO2 in greenhouses, can increase production fourfold while energy consumption per unit of product is reduced. Industry partner GreenCap Solutions AS has developed a patented system (Environmental Control System (ECS)) to control the climate in greenhouses in a completely different way than before. Heat from the sun and the lamps during the day is captured for use at night by keeping the air hatches in the greenhouse closed, which will eliminate the use of fossil energy and in theory will save 50% of energy. Water vapor from the plants is recovered for irrigation and CO2 is prevented from being lost. All CO2 and light are used for photosynthesis. EFREE-Green will improve the production of tomatoes throughout the year by coordinating and optimizing the management of plant growth and greenhouse climate. To ensure use of the system in practice, it must be profitable for gardeners and industry partners. That requires an interdisciplinary approach. We will use 1) Plant physiology knowledge to increase and secure production in a closed greenhouse system using supplementary LED light 2) Technological expertise to reduce energy requirements in plant production 3) Physics and technological expertise on process integration to reduce energy requirements for ECS 4 ) a Modified bioeconomic model to optimize economic profitability in Norway and other countries, while 5) Environmental and social sustainability will be documented using relevant sustainability indicators.

Greenhouses can be a solution to increase Norway’s self-sufficiency rate by growing popular warm season fruits and vegetables, increasing production of per unit of area and extending the growing season. However, this comes in expenses of high energy needs covered by electricity and fossil fuels, thus not CO2 neutral. In a closed greenhouse system, heat energy and water is captured from the inside air and adding CO2 captured from the atmosphere, thus excluding the need for fossil fuel. EFREE-Green will enhance crop production of tomatoes all year-long with minimal energy requirements and enhanced CO2 sequestration by correlating the parameters used in environmental control systems (ECS) from greenhouses to plant growth, enabling full heat, water and CO2 recovery. EFREE-Green will enable to make the greenhouse industry 100% emission-free by 2030 and increase 50% Norwegian production by 2035. A successful introduction of ECS in the greenhouse industry, however, depends on the profitability of the system for the farmer. Achieving our goal requires an interdisciplinary approach to 1) increase the growth and yield of the crop 2) reduce energy consumption; and 3) reduce CO2 emissions. We will use 1) plant physiological knowledge to increase and secure production in a closed greenhouse system using supplemental LED light 3) physics and technological competence on process integration to reduce the energy need for the ECS 4) a modified bio-economical model to optimize the economic performance of a new system, including greenhouse design and 5) use the outcomes for smart farming, i.e. dynamically controlled crop production while reducing energy needs. The economic impact of the present smart farming will be linked to the product and power price. A techno-economic assessment will reveal the viability of this type of smart farming in Norway and other countries. Environmental and social sustainability will be documented using relevant sustainability indicators.

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