Automated Light Deprivation: Is it Worth the Cost?
Light deprivation systems are crucial for many greenhouse operations. Artificially manipulating the day and night cycle in your greenhouse space can encourage crops to flower several times in a year, rather than just in a single season, leading to increased crop yields, more manageable harvests, and a more regular source of income.
But how do you decide what kind of light deprivation system is best for your personal greenhouse or growing business?
We’ve already looked at how exterior light deprivation systems can provide cost and efficiency advantages over interior ones, but what about automatic versus manual?
Automating your light deprivation cycle has its advantages, but installing an automated system is an added cost. If you’re considering switching over to an automated light deprivation solution for your greenhouse but are wary of the price, here are two major factors that are worth considering.
For owners of growing operations, manual light deprivation systems can actually contribute to increased labour costs. Rolling the light deprivation system up or down isn’t necessarily labour-intensive in its own right, but the artificial day and night cycles that your plants require may necessitate additional labour hours.
In many cases, greenhouses operate on a 12-hour lighting cycle: 12 hours of sunlight, and 12 hours of darkness. With a manual light deprivation system, someone has to be on site for those twelve hours to roll and unroll the light deprivation system and do any auxiliary work required such as setting up additional ventilation fans. Depending on the size or number of the greenhouses on a given site, this can mean lengthy and expensive work hours for an entire team of people.
With an automated light deprivation system, no human presence or intervention is required. SlipTube’s exterior light deprivation systems combined with a motor system on an automated timer require no manual labour, and no additional ventilation. This frees up growers to schedule greenhouse workers for more reasonable shifts which can in turn reduce both cost and employee turnover.
Reduced Potential for Human Error
As with any system that has to be manually controlled, manual light deprivation systems are vulnerable to human error. There’s always the risk that on-site workers will be behind schedule on another task, or otherwise distracted, and neglect to roll out the light deprivation system on time, or deploy it improperly, leading to ventilation issues or light leaks. These risks are multiplied when someone is at the end of a 12-hour shift and is already tired. While greenhouse light deprivation systems are not exceptionally complicated, there is still potential for damage to crops or greenhouse structures if they are used off schedule or otherwise incorrectly.
Automated light deprivation systems remove that potential for human error. Essentially, the human component is replaced with a motorized system on a timer. It will roll up or over the greenhouse walls without any human intervention. It’s obviously a good idea to have a source of backup power in case of an outage, and to perform regular maintenance and upkeep to prevent breakdowns, but a properly maintained automated light deprivation system with a reliable power source is much less fallible than human workers.
For these two reasons, most greenhouse growers find that an automated light deprivation system is worth the cost. Upgrading from a manual system is essentially a matter of changing over a few parts, from a mechanical crank to a motorized system on a timer. There is a greater up-front cost, but after factoring the costs of paying workers to be on site to deploy a manual deprivation system, an automated system helps growers realize savings quite quickly.