Science - November 22, 2018

Unifarm to get new greenhouses

Albert Sikkema

The Unifarm research greenhouses on Wageningen campus are set to get an upgrade. In the coming year, a new greenhouse covering 4000 m2 will be built behind Radix. Then the existing greenhouses — which total 10,000 m2 — will be replaced.

Unifarm, the test facility for plant research behind Gaia, Lumen and Radix, will be refurbished and extended. ©Unifarm

First, greenhouse builder Bosman Van Zaal will be building a closed greenhouse with 63 compartments and a ‘high limitation level’. This means a lot of safety precautions have been taken. This greenhouse will let WUR do research in fully controlled conditions, for example with genetically modified crops and plant diseases. ‘Each compartment will get its own access lock, cooling and heating,’ says Dolf Straathof, head of Unifarm.

The research greenhouse will be energy efficient as well as safe, says Straathof. The new greenhouse will have thermal energy storage, LED lighting and double glazing. ‘Our goal is to be able to heat the greenhouse without using natural gas.’ Construction of the greenhouse is due to start next June. It should be ready by summer 2020.

The gradual replacement of the existing greenhouses behind Radix will also start in 2020. Those greenhouses, which were built in 2002, are now ageing and no longer comply with the stricter laws and regulations. ‘The air treatment systems are often located in the roof of the greenhouse so they cast a shadow on part of it,’ says Straathof. ‘That’s no good when you’re doing trials. In the new greenhouses, the systems will be installed close to the ground outside the growing compartment so they don’t affect the light and it’s easier to clean the greenhouses after an experiment has ended.’

Our goal is to be able to heat the greenhouse without using natural gas.
Dolf Straathof, head of Unifarm

The greenhouses will be upgraded a few at a time, during which experiments will move to the other greenhouses. The idea is to have 14,000m2 in new greenhouses on campus in seven years’ time. WUR will then get rid of the Nergena greenhouses near Bennekom (4000m2).

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