Guest blogger Ed Hardy recently wrote the following for AHDB GrowSave and it was an interesting thought worth sharing here:
"Three weeks into the new year and I wonder how many people have managed to stick to their resolutions… For some, it may be to eat more healthily or reduce their climate impact by adopting a plant-based diet – a trend seen through the increasing uptake of Veganuary over the last few years. And, surely, with people eating more fruit and vegetables, this is good news for horticulture.
But, while the environmental impact of plants is generally much less than for meat production, it can still be significant. For those growing in managed environments (e.g. heated greenhouses), the energy input can be considerable, especially if growing out-of-season produce to satisfy consumer demand. At this time of year, with a potentially high temperature difference between inside and outside, any heat input to the greenhouse can be quickly lost. For a typical structure without thermal screens, raising the temperature by 15°C above ambient could see heat being radiated out to the world at a rate of 1.2 MW/Ha. That is like having 400 kettles constantly boiling just to maintain the temperature. Rain and snow can make things worse!
Some growers may simply regard this as the cost of doing business, but it need not be. There are ways to cut energy usage and cost. For example, installing thermal screens can slash heating costs, with some manufacturers claiming over 40% savings. Even bubble-wrapping the sides can help – insulation is king! Growing just 1°C cooler can also have an impact, reducing heat loss by around 7%. Improving energy efficiency is a crucial step in achieving global climate targets, such as net zero emissions and limiting planetary warming. The role of agriculture and horticulture will be huge, potentially having to go beyond being carbon neutral and instead become a carbon negative sector. This may seem like a big challenge, and there isn’t always an obvious pathway towards achieving the ambitious goals being set at the top level, but improving efficiency and reducing consumption can be a good first step".
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