ICBA develops new net house design to save water and energy

Elsy Melkonian
Journalism and Media outreach Specialist
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture – ICBA
Edited by:
Abdumutalib Begmuratov
Senior Publications and Editing Specialist
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture – ICBA

Protected agriculture receives special attention from decision-makers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries because it produces high quality crops in marginal climatic conditions. However, this type of agriculture consumes large amounts of water and energy due to the cooling system which is based on evaporative pads.

In response to the need for a more cost-effective system, researchers at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) have developed a new design of net house to cut down on the use of water and energy and keep optimum quality and production of crops at the same time, similar to plants grown in traditional greenhouses.

Experiment at ICBA

This experiment began in 2015 by cultivating pepper and cucumber (Zeco variety) on a sandy substrate. The net house area is 560 m2 with two spans; each span has a width of 8 m, a length of 35 m and a height of 5 m. The net house is equipped with a mist system consisting of nozzles with an hourly discharge of 32 l/hr. In order to reduce the temperature and evaporation, a 50% shade net was installed above the mist system. This shade net was installed also to decrease the radiation load and reduce the plant transpiration.

Irrigation runs in a closed circuit where drainage resulting from plant irrigation is accumulated and disinfected to be reused once again. This system supplies plant nutrients through a computer-controlled Hortimax system which also keeps the temperature below 29ºC and humidity above 50%.

  • The required conditions in this type of net house are as follows:
  • 15ºC minimum temperature for mist
  • 25 seconds minimum time for mist
  • 30 seconds maximum time for mist
  • 300 seconds minimum time as an interval between mist sessions
  • Misting will start at 10:00 a.m.
  • Misting will stop at 17:00 p.m.

The study showed that growing cucumber and pepper in the net house requires 3 times less water than the cooled greenhouse. While much higher water use was recorded for the cooling process in the greenhouse, the net house consumed 33 times less energy than the greenhouse (Figure 1).

The study also proved the sustainability of the net house as a high productivity agricultural system that has cost-effective consumption of water and energy in dry and climatic environments, especially in GCC countries. Furthermore, planting various types of vegetables is recommended during the months of October and May when temperature does not exceed 40ºC. Effective cooling was provided when mist and the 50% shade net were installed. This helped to decrease temperature inside the net house by 6ºC while maintaining quality yields.

Commenting on this research, Dr. Redouane Choukr-Allah, ICBA's senior horticulture specialist says: "The new net house design we developed helped to cut down on water and energy consumption, and the use of the mist system helped to decrease temperature by 6ºC. Compared with the current practice which does not apply mist and cannot decrease temperature by more than 3ºC, we were able to successfully grow cucumber in addition other vegetable crops."

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