Modular Shading Structure for High Value Fruits and Vegetables
Shading vegetables and fruits can reduce temperatures resulting in improved fruit set, increase fruit size and quality, and reduce water consumption. Shading materials for reducing light intensity or transmission have been used extensively in the nursery industry as well as with large commercial growers of high value fruits and vegetables for many years. The physiological processes of plants have been shown to be altered using some more recent colored shade netting technology developed by companies such as Polysack. These engineered filaments in the netting can selectively allow only blue, green, or red light to reach the plants. Research conducted by the Institute of Plant Sciences, ARO, The Volcani Center, Bet-Dagan, Israel measured the performance of photo-selective nettings and improved performance of horticultural crops. Dr. Fumiomi Takeda, USDA-ARS, Kearneysville, WV, showed that photo-selective nets dramatically altered the flower initiation time in strawberry plants such that the need for detaching flowers can be eliminated in strawberry nursery fields or fruit harvest can be targeted for peak price periods. Photo-selective shade nets with differential light scattering properties and altered proportions of red to far-red light ratios offer a non-chemical means of growth control in horticultural crops. The shade netting material is relatively inexpensive but the cost of the shade structure frame, hardware and installation is high. The significant initial investment required in the system has limited the expansion of engineered shading structures into the commercial sector, especially smaller local produce operations. The objective of this Phase I SBIR proposal is to develop a universal modular shading structure system. This system must be economical, easy to install and produce a healthy return on investment for the grower. The team will use the latest in manufacturing technology to design fiber reinforced components that meet the requirements of organic growing and innovative methods to manufacture low cost components that can be easily configured to create the variety of different layouts, easily installed in the ground and quickly disassembled and moved to a different location on the farm. This SBIR Phase I will include collaboration on shade structure design and requirements. Fabricating prototypes, laboratory testing of posts for load and stress limitations, measure light intensity, percent light transmission, and light quality (measuring wavelength) to determine optimum distances of netting from plants, evaluating the adaptability of new designs for high value fruits and vegetable production, data collection and analysis, and preparation of a final report. The long term goal is to develop a shade structure system that can be economically produced, easily distributed to growers throughout the industry, and versatile in design for different applications in production of high value fruits and vegetables.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Trellis Growing Systems LLC
2427 South Hadley Road Fort Wayne, IN 46804-1511
Number of Employees: