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Wageningen UR evaluates greenhouse designs for Mexico

Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, has evaluated the environmental and economic sustainability of a number of greenhouse designs for Mexican conditions. Protected greenhouse horticulture in Mexico is growing strong. Flowers are produced mainly for the domestic market, while there is plenty of export of vegetables to the USA and Canada. The level of technology varies from very low at a multitude of small farms to state-of-the-art in some agro-parks.

The Dutch industry is involved through the supply of planting materials, greenhouse installations, biological control agents, and knowledge. There is a strong interest to expand operations, as reflected in the strategy of individual companies and Greenport Holland International which, amongst others, has resulted in the MexiCultura programme.

The choice for a new greenhouse can be made explicit by quantifying the effects of technology for production, water use, energy use, water use efficiency, energy use efficiency, investment and running costs, and pay-back period of the investments. Three computational models were used for this, viz. a greenhouse model, a crop growth model, and a financial model. They are fed with a wide variety of bio-physical and socio-economic data and provide quantitative information on the above-mentioned key parameters. The study was conducted for the states of Queretaro, Aguascalientes, and Sinaloa.

A variety of greenhouses was evaluated, ranging from a relatively simple greenhouse with a plastic cover and fixed windows to a greenhouse with automated windows, substrate, heating pipes, CO2 application, fogging, energy screens, and glass cover. To determine potential production levels, also a fully enclosed greenhouse was assessed.

Increased levels of technology increase the pay-back period; however, heating, CO2 application, fogging, energy screens and also a glass cover result in a higher net income. In the later cases, water use efficiency is also highest. Energy use efficiency is highest if energy screens which deal with low night temperatures are used.

The information can be used by Netherlands supply industry and Mexican growers to make informed choices.
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