Energy efficient greenhouses for southern Patagonia

A Group is visiting a horticultural company

Horticultural company Seidel in Rain am Lech; Photo: Iris Wunderlich / AHK Chile

During a five-day delegation trip through southern Germany, representatives from Chile’s agricultural ministry acquired knowledge about the construction of efficient greenhouses. The trip was organised through Smart Energy Concepts, a project funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and implemented by the German-Chilean Chamber of Commerce (AHK).

In the Region of Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic Territory, both situated in the southernmost parts of Chile, cold Pacific waters and the South Patagonian Ice Field significantly influence the local climate. Food production in this region is primarily limited to livestock farming. Only a small portion of food products are produced locally, meaning that many fruits and vegetables must travel thousands of kilometres by land through Argentina or even be brought in by air. Such goods are expensive and have an enormous carbon footprint.

Group photo in front of a glasshouse

The regional representation of Chile's agricultural ministry wants to change this. ‘We would like to extend the cultivation and harvesting periods for regional fruits and vegetables and also increase local added value, and do this as sustainably as possible’, explains Etel Latorre, the representative from Chile’s Agricultural Ministry in the Region of Magallanes. Through the national programme for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energies in the region, the pilot projects will be launched featuring energy efficient greenhouses. The delegation trip to Germany was the first step in providing the Ministry with valuable ideas for reaching this aim.

A group is visiting a hallThe trip started in Schifferstadt with a visit to an experimental greenhouse by ZINEG, the Low Energy Greenhouse Initiative.  One particularly impressive feature is the high degree of energy efficiency achieved by the facilities in Schifferstadt, which is made possible through flexible and controllable energy shielding and the use of double-layer film material. An intelligent control system identifies the optimal combination of light irradiation and associated heat utilisation and shielding for heat and cold insulation. In total, this technology is able to attain an 85 per cent increase in efficiency. The system features a boiler fuelled by pellets that provides heat for a hot water tank.

The participants sitting around tables and listen to a presentationDuring their subsequent visit to an innovation project operated by the Baden-Württemberg electric utilities company EnBW that followed, the delegation investigated how greenhouses can take advantage of near-surface geothermal energy, a technology is currently in use at the State Horticultural College and Research Institute in Heidelberg. In addition to geothermal energy, the advanced greenhouse also utilises high-quality materials that ensure both good insulation and a maximum degree of light transmission.

Participants visiting a glasshouseThe company Ziehl-Abegg in Künzelsau also welcomed the delegation and introduced its systems for greenhouse construction. Ziehl-Abegg is currently represented locally through a sales office in Chile, supplying the food sector with technologies for greenhouses and cooling solutions used in warehouses and packaging companies.

At a production facility in Rain am Lech that delivers garden herbs and ornamental plants to a well-known German garden centre chain, the delegation had the opportunity to see all of the components in action: ventilation technology, energy shields, double-layer foils, water-saving irrigation technology and sensor-controlled automation technology.

Participants visiting a fan-system

Etel Latorre, the regional representative from the Agricultural Ministry in the Region of Magallanes, was clearly impressed: ‘We learned about many concepts that we must now evaluate to determine which technologies we would like to implement here in Magallanes. The delegation trip has also established a basis for technology transfers.’