Modular Shading Structure for High Value Fruits and Vegetables

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2014-02942
Agency Tracking Number: 2014-02942
Amount: $449,905.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.13
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2014
Award Year: 2014
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): N/A
Award End Date (Contract End Date): N/A
Small Business Information
2427 S. Hadley Road, Fort Wayne, IN, 46804-1511
DUNS: 801961066
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Richard Barnes
 (260) 241-3128
Business Contact
 Richard Barnes
Title: President
Phone: (260) 241-3128
Research Institution
Commercial farms growing high value fruits and vegetables use shade structures to create protected environments. These growers benefit from bigger yields, better quality produce, fewer pests, timed crop growth, and resource conservation. Unfortunately, shade structure use is limited for many small and medium size farms who lack economy of scale. Commercial shade structures available today are very expensive to purchase and install as well as difficult and time-consuming to move. Thus, this SBIR project addresses an important need by evaluating the performance of a novel modular shading structure (MoSS) with a fabric management and hardware system that is affordable and adaptable to a variety of agricultural uses for high value fruit and vegetable production. The project objectives target improvements in production of these crops. Trellis Growing Systems (TGS) and its research partners will evaluate new methods using photo-selective nets in short-day and day-neutral strawberry transplant production for utility in timed fruit production. The use of MoSS toreduceenvironmental and biotic challenges will be appraised in southern highbush blueberry production. The effect of colored nets on yield, fruit quality and plant diseases will be assessed in bell pepper production. Shaded northern organic fruits (blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry) will be evaluated for quality, marketable yield and pest pressure. Research and field trial work will use different types of fabrics and MoSS configurations to meet a range of tasks such as changing light intensity and light quality, reducing wind and temperature effects, and excluding crop pests. Finally, performance evaluations and recommendations from the growers and researchers involved in this project will be used by TGS to finalize product design and costs.The expected outcome of this SBIR project will be commercialization of a modular shading structure with innovative features engineered as a result of research and development efforts by the USDA, university scientists, agricultural producers, and TGS. The MoSS system will use a family of components economically manufactured, easily configured to requirements, and distributed directly to growers of high value produce. The potential commercial applications are diverse. Strawberry nurseries can use this technology to manage transplant growth traits, such as plant height and flowering time, in a programmed fruit production system to meet periods of high consumer demand with far less reliance on chemical control techniques and costly labor-intensive practices. Blueberry producers can use this technology for temperature management in growing areas where current methods depend, many times, on the extensive use of harmful chemicals and valuable water resources. Such growing areas are found in central Florida and southern California, where high winter temperatures can prevent plants from getting dormancy requirements needed for good fruiting while low spring temperatures can cause crop loss due to frost and freeze damage. Growers of small fruits and vegetables, such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and bell peppers, can use this technology to improve fruit yields and quality. Additionally, the low environmental impact and practicality of using MoSS to prevent damage from destructive birds and invasive pests, such as the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), make it a valuable tool for many producers of healthy foods--especially small to medium size farmers who are the vast majority of the conventional and organic producers growing for local and regional markets. These applications will contribute to sustainable and profitable rural agricultural growth, especailly for small and medium size farming operations.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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