In Chile, a new tool to model greenhouses computationally, and thereby work with elements in constant variation, such as temperature or solar radiation, is being developed by the director of the Energy Innovation Centre of the Technical University Santa María, Jaime Espinoza, and the student of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Maximiliano Ramírez.
According to Espinoza, "Chile's agricultural development greatly relies on the introduction of new technologies to the various productive processes, such as cultivation, refrigeration and packing, among others. Thus, for the improvement of the current greenhouses it is necessary to understand the conditions they work in and seek suitable scientific models."
Within this context, the Energy Innovation Centre (www.cie.usm.cl) has built several greenhouse models with different methods based on previous research, and it is currently working on a computational tool which makes it possible to generate a dynamic model, able to work with constantly changing variables, such as solar radiation or room temperature.
According to the professor, "a scientific model is the representation of a phenomenon, and a greenhouse is a phenomenon that involves agronomy, mechanics and physics and even other sciences, like electronics or computing."
The main goal is to study the temperature variation within a greenhouse in the course of a day, and in turn for each day of the year. Just as important is an analysis of the relative moisture or predicting the days when frosts could happen.
For all these analyses, the model is built from variables and data, such as the measurements and physical characteristics of the greenhouse and the region's climatic variables.
"The greenhouse selected is a chapel type, with a polyethylene cover, and is located in the outskirts of the city of Santiago, Chile. As a result of the analysis, we obtain the greenhouse's inner temperatures over a one year period, which gives us an image of the type of environment the crops are exposed to," explains Maximiliano Pérez.
For future studies, other regions with different weather conditions will be used. The model will then also include various heating and/or air conditioning systems, with the goal of introducing renewable energies for the heating of greenhouses in an efficient manner.