Gas analyzer helps US grower eliminate ethylene problems

It is not uncommon to see large greenhouse operations in the United States use equipment with internal combustion engines. Gas-powered tractors can cause damage to crops though, due to the ethylene they release.

At US flower grower Color Point, they utilize small tractors due to the amount of travel distance and terrain at their operation. Electric carts were investigated in the past, but unfortunately a good result wasn’t found. Thus it was decided many years ago to utilize small tractors with gas engines.

Head grower Brent Troost: "There was an incident that occurred at our facility a few months ago that appeared to be ethylene related. We aborted some flowers on a batch of Petunia that were ready to ship. There was much debate amongst the owner, Art VanWingerden, our Consultant Dr. Royal Heins, JP the Facility General Manager, and myself as to the cause of this problem. The general consensus amongst the group was that our problem was created by ethylene, but we had no way to confirm this hypothesis."

No more guessing
They found a solution to their ethylene woes: a gas analyzer, produced by EMS. According to Gertjan Bosman, Product Specialist at EMS, Color Point is the first company in the US to use their gas analyzer. It can sniff out the ethylene in the air, and so it "helps us stop 'guessing' if the fumes produced from our tractors were causing issues," Brent says.

"What makes this unit special is the fact that it is relatively easy to move around in the greenhouse," he goes on to say. "It’s not the size of a small room like some analyzers used by universities. The unit also links up through a cellular data link." Every morning Brent arrives at work he gets a graph and data (in Microsoft Excel) showing him NOx, C2H4, CO2, NO, NO2, and CO. "We started taking data in our production area where we grow plants. Now we have the analyzer in our shipping house."

No more gas tractors
The results, Brent says, can be summed up into one word: "WOW! We had no idea we had such a problem with ethylene until now. In the past it was only a conjecture, but now that we have physical data we are shocked. It’s time to make some changes to eliminate our ethylene problem."

So what's the next step? "No more gas tractors!" Color Point is in the process of running a trial on several different types of electric carts that are capable of keeping up at their facility. The facility is 33 hectares, and a cart must be able to last all day and not stop to be charged. "This obviously presents some challenges. We think we have found one that will fit our needs, and we will be switching over to these carts shortly."

For more information:
Color Point
Brent Troost

Gertjan Bosman

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