As Europe is gripped by heat, growers do everything within their reach to combat temperatures up to 40 degrees. Theodoros Savvidis with Savvidis Greenhouses grows tomatoes in Prosotsani, Greece. "Keeping the crop in check when everything is going well is easy. Keeping it in balance through adversities is always challenging", he says.
After a career in San Francisco and New York epigenetics, Theodoros decided to move back to his mother country to actively participate in the industry that has his heart: food, and more specifically, where our crops come from and whether they are safe. "Modern people demand a lot from their food while having limited time and space," Theodoros explains when asked why after a career in San Francisco and New York, he moved back to his mother country to participate in the industry that has his heart: food.
"People just need more and more of increasingly better quality of crops. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that novel, sustainable systems of integrated and vertical farming match their needs better and at the right place. However, our planet demands a gentler approach from us if future generations are going to live here. Thus, employing modern hydroponic systems with reduced water and ecological footprints for growing crops is my main interest now", he explains.
In 2014, the company Savvidis Greenhouses was erected by Ieroklis Savvidis, Theorodos' father, and his partners, and Theorodor is now the second generation of growers. The 2-hectare high-tech greenhouse contributes to the self-sufficiency of the Greece population by growing high-quality large-fruited tomatoes sold under the brand Dramello Fresh. With a 1MW CHP, CO2, and heat is being generated, and the electricity is sold back to the net.
"We are under PE Cover and typically use Redusol in the late spring/summer," Theodoros says. "However, when we began, we had no cooling system, and we had to stop through the summer." This week, temperatures in Prosotsani are over 40 degrees Celsius, and this is not expected to change any time soon. "During summer, we always face some kind of heatwave. How bad depends on the year."
However, the company now manages to grow over the summer. "Two years ago, we installed a custom-made, low-pressure misting system that is making all the difference in the world! The climate is controlled, plants are happy and still productive, and our season goes through the summer. All these, without any major rearrangements in the greenhouse and a reasonable cost."
The misting system was installed by Ptolemeo, their sister company responisble for mechanical engineering. "Collaborating with Ptolemeo brought us lots of knowledge over the last two years. We've dealt with sprinklers which were dripping on the plants, which you don't want since it causes fungi problems", Theodoros says. "We've had to find specific drippers using a stream of air and a stream of water." Also, the company had to optimize the compressing systems, so proper pressures both on water and air could be reached.
Contrary to the high-pressure misting systems often used in northern European and North American growing sites, metal tubing is not required for low-pressure misting systems. "This makes cost drop significantly."
An image from the iSii computer shows how extreme the situation is: outside 42,4oC and inside 28.6oC. "In order for this misting system to work properly and to have this kind of results, a dry outside climate is needed. It works the best with outside RH below 40%."
"Misting Is becoming a way of life here," Theodoros concludes. "A crop in balance is a life in balance. A lot of times, the solution is lying somewhere near us, but we have to look for it. As Confucius said; a lot come to those who look for them!"
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