Intelligent greenhouse design decreases water use for evaporative cooling in arid regions

I. Tsafaras*, J.B. Campen, C. Stanghellini, H.F. de Zwart, W. Voogt, K. Scheffers, A. Al Harbi, K. Al Assaf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Production of vegetables for fresh consumption in arid regions usually takes place in greenhouses with evaporative cooling during the warm months of the year. In this period, water use for cooling easily exceeds irrigation water use. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how far water use for evaporative cooling can be lowered by adapting design elements of the greenhouse and the evaporative cooling system. In a greenhouse trial in a desert environment, in Riyadh (KSA), two different greenhouses: one traditional and one modified, both equipped with a pad and fan system, have been compared in terms of productivity and water use with main focus on water use for cooling. The modified greenhouse design resulted in about 14% higher fresh weight production and more than 40% water saving was achieved on evaporative cooling. The climate and water use data recorded during the trial were used to validate a greenhouse climate simulation model including pad and fan cooling. Then, we used the validated model in a scenario study and we quantified the effect of each one of three design elements on use of cooling water. It was shown that the extracted air temperature has a major influence on water use for cooling. Increasing the extracted air temperature with 4 K resulted in about 27% saving in water use for cooling. The latter was done by repositioning of the exhaust fans in order to take advantage of the vertical air temperature gradient in the greenhouse. Additionally, a 5% higher cooling efficiency of the pad wall could yield an extra 12% water saving for evaporative cooling. Finally, the greenhouse cover-to-ground area ratio was also found to affect the water use for cooling. In summary, we have shown that there is much scope for saving on water use for evaporative cooling by improving design of greenhouses and of the cooling system, and that a good greenhouse climate model can be a useful tool in this process. The findings of the current research provide clear guidelines for the construction of more water efficient evaporatively cooled greenhouses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106807
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume250
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Keywords

  • Evaporative cooling
  • Greenhouse climate simulation
  • Greenhouse design
  • Pad and fan
  • Water saving
  • Water use efficiency

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