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High Efficiency Year-Round Tropical Greenhouse

Funded in part by USDA-SARE Grant FNC19-1185

Project Summary

Cold northern climates prevent year-round crop production and make greenhouses too costly for tropical produce. This results in long distance shipping of fruits and vegetables from central America and prevents many types of delicate produce from being available in local markets.

The proposed research will produce data regarding design trade-offs of multiple passive solar greenhouse features as well as demonstration of a selected design. Low cost/high efficiency greenhouse technology could transform our energy intensive food supply chain to a lower cost, more diverse and sustainable system that will improve quality of life for producers and consumers in northern climates.

Unique aspects of this project include:

  • Application of advanced mechanical engineering tools typically reserved for high-cost aerospace and medical industries to northern greenhouse designs.

  • A focus on year-round production vs. season extension.

  • A demonstration site eight miles from South Dakota's largest agricultural university.

  • A naturally sustainable gravity fed spring water source for crop production.

The construction of this highly efficient, cost minimizing greenhouse will allow further development of an exotic plant and fruit horticultural business and expansion into local produce business.

Project objectives from proposal:

Primary objective: Minimize total cost of greenhouse ownership to enable sustainable production of tropical plants and produce.

  1. Research, design and simulate multiple in-ground heat storage configurations to maximize heat storage while minimizing electricity usage.

  2. Minimize summer cooling costs through a fully passive natural convection cooling system.

  3. Design and construct gravity fed spring water supply system.

  4. Construct the proposed greenhouse design based on simulation results.

  5. Monitor key performance parameters and compare to design simulation results.

  6. Share findings through Year-Round Greenhouse Facebook group, Wayward Springs Farm Web-page, conference presentations, local college classroom presentations as well as public open-house tours.

Barley Fields

Intro to Passive Solar Greenhouses; Session 1

An overview of what passive solar greenhouses are and how two common types function:

  1. Low-Grade Geothermal

  2. Climate Batteries

One Year of Operation, Data & Growing; Session 2

  • Summary of design comparisons

  • 2020 Performance Data

  • Analysis of Results

  • Some of the stuff we grew!

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