GrowSave - Horticulture

GrowSave is a knowledge exchange programme helping growers to save energy.

Adapting a glasshouse for soft fruit

Growing soft fruit under glass can extend your growing season while making climate control and the use of biological pest control easier. Whether converting an existing glasshouse or building a new structure, read on to consider which glasshouse features are required for soft fruit growing and the typical costs to expect.


Air movement in glasshouses

Good air movement in a protected growing environment is an important part of creating an even climate and can help improve crop quality and uniformity.  

It is important to consider the best way of moving air around your greenhouse or polytunnel based on your crop type and the production system you use, to find the right solution.  

Cost and energy use should also be considered. While installing fans may be an expensive upfront cost, pipe heating will have higher energy costs and boilers may need servicing and maintenance. A well-designed fan arrangement will achieve better air movement and a more even climate than pipe heating, and should be less expensive in the long-term. 


Alternative energy and heat storage

Protected horticulture production often requires a large heating capability, which usually makes up most of a businesses’ energy needs. In this section you can find out more about different options for alternative energy production to meet this requirement, including biomass combined heat and power (CHP), key factors to consider when installing boiler systems, including the size of the boiler and types of fuel, and the pros and cons of the different systems available. You can also learn about heat pumps; how they work and key factors for installation and heat storage.


Managing energy efficiency

Energy costs in the protected cropping sectors, as a proportion of business variable costs, can be considerable. They are dependent on the fuels used, technology, effective monitoring and benchmarking, the impact of incentives and much more. Although it is important to consider the larger, impactful changes you can make, such as considering alternative energy production, you should also think about the more basic energy management tweaks, which can help improve efficiencies and keep costs low.


Purchasing and monitoring

It is vital to know what you are paying for when it comes to energy, including electricity, bulk fuels, heat and gas. Read on for advice on accurately measuring energy, understanding your electricity bill and considerations for your combined heat and power system.


Sensors and data

There are many sophisticated methods available for saving energy and improving efficiencies. However, a key, cost-effective and relatively simple step towards this goal is to measure and record your energy use. This can then be used to benchmark and make rational decisions when making changes to how you manage your glasshouse.

Read on to consider which sensors suit your site and needs, and how you can compare the data produced over time, and alongside energy data to not only help you optimise your glasshouse climate for your crop, but also save energy and costs.


Taking steps towards net zero

Over recent months the spotlight has been on the Net Zero agenda. This has made commercial horticultural businesses increasingly focus on their own carbon footprint and how the industry can meet the UK government target of achieving a net zero economy by 2050; and the NFU target of 2040.

Proper assessment of carbon footprint is a key consideration in this journey, however, it is very involved and will not, on its own, provide recommendations for reduction of emissions to help reach the Net Zero goal. Carbon capture, renewable energy production, and improvements to productivity and land management will all help the farming sector reduce carbon emissions.


The Next Generation Growing technique

Next Generation Growing (NGG) is about giving the crop exactly what it needs, when it needs it. The techniques create an environment in which the plant thrives, so photosynthesis is maximised in the given light levels.   

Pioneered by Dutch growers, Next Generation Growing is a set of techniques that increases the efficiency of glasshouse production. If implemented well, it can also lead to a 20% reduction in heat use. 


Using carbon dioxide in protected cropping

Carbon dioxide dosing has become an integral part of greenhouse horticulture and is vital to the cost-effective production of many glasshouse crops. However, it can have high energy costs, which has to be kept in check. It is now common practice to raise the glasshouse daytime CO2 concentration for many protected edible crops and some ornamental crops to help optimise photosynthetic rate. Find out more about conventional and alternative sources of CO2 for your glasshouse, and CO2 dosing.


Using light in protected cropping

Lighting is a vital consideration in the management of your glasshouse environment. There have been significant improvements in horticultural lighting technology in recent years, but there are also things you can do to enhance the natural light in your glasshouse to benefit the crop. Read more in our technical updates below.


Using screens in protected cropping

It is well know that the effective use of screen in greenhouses can help you save energy, control humidity and achieve a uniform growing environment. This is key to maintaining a healthy, productive crop. Here, you can find out more about how to overcome humidity and temperature variations, and also how to optimise screen and vent control alongside your lighting operations.



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Training

We are developing a series of online training modules on topics about basic greenhouse energy management, which will be released over the next few months. We hope these can be used to train new staff on these basic principles or for the ongoing technical development of your employees. Starting with basic humidity control which is now available, further modules on heating, venting and screen control, and air movement are in development.


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Useful links

Visit the NFU Energy website CO2 best practice guide

Have a question? Ask the team ...

Nathalie Key

Knowledge Exchange Manager (Protected Edibles, Vine Crops, Mushrooms)
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