Optimizing Bell Pepper Production in Canada by Collaboration with Twin Creeks with MJ-Tech and LetsGrow.com

What is nowadays a forty-acre glass greenhouse growing bell peppers in Ontario, started with Mike Cornelissen, the owner and grower of Twin Creeks, back in 2016. “We started with ten acres, and in 2018 we decided to build ten more acres. Two years later we added twenty acres more, and here we are today” Mike said. Twin Creeks produces red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and constantly looking into opportunities to increase production and fruit quality. “We are very focused on improving our growing methods, and the best way to do so is to trial on-site, that is also the reason for this interview, to discuss the trial we started last year with the high-pressure fogging”, Mike shared.

The collaboration

A team of experts from LetsGrow.com, MJ-Tech, and Twin Creeks has been working together since 2023 conducting a trial, combining data-driven growing to optimize production using high-pressure fogging. We interviewed Mike Cornelissen for his experience and insights into the first years’ trial results and future plans of Twin Creeks.

Why fogging?

We asked Mike what led him to the desire to research the benefits and use of high-pressure fogging at his facility. “It was just something that we felt would help us increase our production and the quality of our products. Whether it is cooling on hot days, or using it to steer more vegetatively when needed, these were our first aims when we started to trial last year. One of the benefits of conducting a continuous trial over multiple years is the development in understanding the system and how to better adapt it to our growing set-up. In year one we aimed mainly at cooling. We did our trial and learned how to use the fogging, and what aspects we have to consider to better apply it for maximizing the results. This year we go one step further, we want to learn how to maintain an optimized climate for a longer period. We expect to have an increased fruit size and improved fruit quality. By conducting this trial we want to push the plant to the limit by reducing the screening hours and using high-pressure fogging at the right moment of the day.

Trial, Insights, and Findings

For the trial, LetsGrow.com sensors were used to collect and analyze data. Based on these, results were collected and conclusions drawn.

Mike explained that based on the first trial’s results the way he operates the greenhouse has been changed. “This year we are trying to use less ventilation during the day we implemented intelligent venting and intelligent temperature from Hoogendoorn to achieve this target. We managed to keep the vents more closed than we previously did. Thanks to that the CO2 levels in the greenhouse are increased and the climate is rather stable and controlled compared to when windows are open throughout the day. And then, since we can keep the humidity at a more optimal level, we are able to push a crop harder to further increase production”.

Moving on, Mike explained, “Another aspect we are looking at is reducing the shading due to the usage of fogging. As a greenhouse that does not use artificial light, we depend on the natural sun radiation. Therefore, if we can shade less and allow more light to come into the greenhouse, we will manage to increase yields. It all comes back to the RTR strategy (i.e., Radiation Temperature Ratio), once we have more light, we can allow higher temperatures, pushing the plants to produce more. Now in the fogging compartment, we close the screens at 100 Watts more than we do in the compartment without fogging. If we do not have any fruit damage in the upcoming days, we will increase it further. Small but sure steps”.

Yet another important benefit Mike mentioned he noticed with the fogging is the beneficial impact on the biological control, “our IPM (i.e., Integrated Pests Management) program worked better in the compartment where fogging was applied, for instance, on the population of spider mites. The pest pressure was reduced, which is of course a great result to have”.

Mike continued and shared his operating schedule for the high-pressure fogging system those days; “Now that we are already in the second cycle of the trial, we improved the fogging setpoint as well. The misting will start based on the setpoints of both criteria; humidity deficit and solar radiation. Then, one should also control their pulse length, from 7 to 15 seconds for a short or long pulse, respectively. The drier it is outside the longer the pulse is. Each pulse is separated by 30-second intervals. We try to stick to short pulses of about 7 seconds because it is safer, we do not want to overmist as well.”

Sensors and Future Growing

Trial cultivation is usually equipped with multiple sensors, the more the better. We asked Mike for his experience working with all these sensors. “Being away and still having the opportunity to look into your crop and climate is always an advantage, but especially when we work with an international team. The opportunity of having experts review our data and comment on it, developing together improvement of the cultivation strategy is extremely important. There is so much to see, the data collected is so extended, whether it is in graphs or tables, and nothing is missing from this dashboard. I asked to fine-tune graphs and support with some settings, and the LetsGrow.com team was very kind to assist me every time. It is very important to have a user-friendly system and experts who understand what you are asking them and why”.

It is clear that Twin Creeks is led by a future-oriented mind, but what else does Mike plan? “Using intelligent algorithms has its benefits and perks, you only have to learn how to use it correctly. This can help you fine-tune your greenhouse growing settings because it helps you in the background with your setpoints, by bringing together data that you can use to improve your setting set points. It does not mean there is no need for a grower and the climate computer can manage itself. It means that the grower can use the climate computer in a way to create long-term predictions and based on this, plan for their cultivation, and as such allowing me to be more efficient with my time.”

As for Twin Creeks’ future, Mike shares that they want to further grow and expand. Once these trials are done, the high-pressure fogging system will be installed in the complete facility with the support of the local MJ-Tech team in Canada, and new trials will probably be set to investigate other aspects of the cultivation, further improving and innovating.


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