ControlByWeb Case Study: Costa Farms Smart Greenhouse Automation

Costa Farms is a multi-national supplier of house plants that grows $600 million worth each year. Their smart greenhouses represent some of the most advanced automation at scale in the horticulture world. They use ControlByWeb’s I/O products to monitor sensors gathering data on such things as temperature, humidity, light, soil moisture, salinity, and more. Our devices control a variety of greenhouse equipment such as fans, vents, motors, pumps, and valves.

Control Growth Speed and Plant Quality

Their control system, partially powered by ControlByWeb, needs to be precise, reliable, and scalable. We help Costa Farms control growth speed and plant quality in a cost effective way.

Automation Base on Weather

In addition to environmental control, Costa Farms is using ControlByWeb modules to monitor outside weather and sunlight to affect how the greenhouse reacts to external factors. High winds will close vents, sunnier conditions will reduce lighting and, in conjunction with temperature, can activate automated shade cloth covers. Our controllers even help with employee safety by monitoring lightning detectors and sounding alarms. Costa Farms has a wide variety of I/O needs and looks to ControlByWeb and our inherent flexibility to solve them.

Application Overview

Commercial greenhouses and their control systems are an important part of the horticulture industry with nearly 14 million acres globally under a greenhouse covering, and over 1 million acres under permanent greenhouse structures. As demand for food, house plants, and even cannabis increases, smart greenhouses are quickly becoming the gold standard.

Commercial growers build smart greenhouses with automation to improve their quality and production. In order to effectively automate a greenhouse you need reliable monitoring and control that scales from small semi-permanent greenhouses to large permanent structures spanning many acres.

Features

  • Monitor temp/humidity, and soil moisture sensors
  • Control fans, vents, heaters, soil moisture, etc.
  • Local & remote, real-time monitoring
  • Log sensor data
  • Email/text notifications
  • And much more…

Common Greenhouse Control Problems

Industrial control systems are prohibitively expensive for small operators, while smaller solutions lack advanced capability.

Cloud-based solutions require data hosting fees which cut into profits, diminishing the benefits of installing a smart greenhouse in the first place.

It’s easier to find a solution for one or a few monitoring challenges, but identifying a complete system that is both reliable and affordable is difficult.

ControlByWeb™ Greenhouse Solutions

Our sensors and I/O devices work as a stand alone device, complete control system, or simply as part of a more advanced control system.

Our monitoring and control devices work independently of a cloud so no additional fees are required. Integration with a cloud is optional.

Our expandable I/O can monitor any sensor and control motors, lights, fans, vents, valves, pumps, and more. Mix and match while keeping costs low.

How ControlByWeb™ Works

Frequently Asked Questions

Monitoring a greenhouse is deploying sensors such as temperature, humidity, soil moisture, soil pH, UV, and more and conveying that data to either a control system, or to a responsible person who can react accordingly.

A smart greenhouse is a greenhouse that uses sensors and automated control to detect and actively maintain an ideal growing environment with equipment such as heaters, ventilation, lighting, irrigation, etc.

Greenhouse control systems consist of sensors, controllers, and programmed logic that initiates actions based on sensor readings. A basic example would be temperature control. A temperature sensor speaks to a controller that is programmed to activate or de-activate both heaters, vents, and fans to maintain an appropriate temperature range inside the greenhouse.

Automating a greenhouse can be a fairly simple task, or it can be a big undertaking depending on the size and scope of the operation. Automation is achieved by choosing a process that is ideal for automating, such as temperature control. First, install a sensor which detects a key metric, such as a temperature reading. Second, install a controller, such as the X-420, that can take the sensor reading and apply programmable logic which then initiates a control process. Third, install equipment that can be initiated (such as a heater, fan, or ventilation) to maintain an ideal environmental state.

Sensors commonly used in greenhouses include the following:

  • Temperature
    • Air Temperature
    • Substrate Temperature
    • Plant Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Soil Moisture
  • Light
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Weather
    • Wind Speed & Direction
    • Precipitation
  • Security
  • Power Status/Availability

Temperatures above 90° F or 32° C are too hot for a greenhouse. The ideal temperature range for a greenhouse is generally considered between 80° and 85° F, or 26° to 29° C. But those are general rules of green thumb. The truth is, each type of plant will have its own ideal growing conditions, including both temperature and humidity.

Temperature control inside a greenhouse can be done in a variety of ways, and depends largely on the size of the greenhouse and the climate where it exists. A basic temperature control will include an air temperature sensor, a heater (in colder climates), and some ridge vents. Commercial operations often include more complex systems. Shade cloth is a common tool used by growers everywhere to help keep plants cool during the hottest months of the year.

 
Link to product pages: ControlByWeb – Ethernet I/O Experts