NESI is a large Chinese renewable energy company that generates electricity from the sun. This ties into vegetable growing because NESI's solar panels are located on the greenhouses it has constructed in several parts of China.
There are currently 6,000 hectares of greenhouse with solar panels mounted on roof, many of which stand empty.
Many Chinese provinces seek partnerships with Growing-Smart and NESI because they would like to use the greenhouses to grow vegetables for local residents, which has not yet occurred.
There are several reasons: some technical, such as diminished lighting inside the greenhouses because of the solar panels, and some objective, such as lack of technical knowhow. The result is that local farmers cannot use the greenhouses and yields are below the minimum.
Growing-Smart and NESI, in partnership, have commenced with an 8,000 m2 pilot project.
It encompasses three greenhouses of types popular in China: The traditional solar greenhouse, glass greenhouses and polyethylene with a skylight in which various vegetables, such as cucumbers, peppers, lettuces and strawberries were grown, with the object of introducing other crops later on.
In view of climatic and terrain conditions in the greenhouses, we selected three different soilless technology methods adapted to the conditions and restrictions of each greenhouse:
- Method 1: Growbags.
- Method 2 Loose Coco: Polypropylene troughs upon which the growth medium is placed, mainly for kohlrabi, lettuce and other leafy vegetables.
- Method 3: We have developed a concept of trenches in which unwrapped coco slabs are placed. This is to counter the lack of a slope prevalent in some areas, which prevents proper drainge. This method is somewhat limited but relatively cheap and easy to install on a large scale.
The results proved very quickly that each of the three methods was successful.
The idea was to use the existing greenhouses and incorporate Growing-Smart’s specialised technology, rather than set up an entirely new project.
The greenhouses have become a popular attraction for many, including researchers, farmers and officials, who wanted to see how the pilot project was making the wilderness bloom in greenhouses. The project's partners hope to extend this success to other greenhouses in order to provide local residents and residents of other areas in China with fresh produce.