Several years ago, our group released the Virtual Grower software to the public. Initially designed to help greenhouse growers determine heating costs and do simple simulations to figure out where heat savings could be achieved, it has slowly added features so that now, Virtual Grower can help not only identify those savings through different greenhouse designs, but predict crop growth, assist in scheduling, make real-time predictions of energy use, and see the impact of supplemental lighting on plant growth and development. In other words, the software can be a safety net and allow users to experiment with “what if” scenarios in a risk-free setting.
Virtual Grower 3.0 is the next installment in the software series. Released in August, 2011, this version is the first to be both Mac- and PC-compatible, meaning no one is excluded from being able to use the software. Return users will find the same easy-to-use sections for designing greenhouse structures, heating systems, and lighting systems, and adding up to 40 plant species or varieties to your simulation.
- The new version has nearly 800 locations across the U.S. represented by their weather, which is an increase of over 500 sites.
- Many of the new and old features are bolstered with graphics including a location map, photographs, responsive schematic drawings of your simulated greenhouse, and graphs and charts of the output.
- Virtual Grower 3 can now accommodate dual-stage heating systems and apply them to as many greenhouses as you want. This allows for the simulation of the increasingly common case of having a very high-efficiency system running most of the time and a lower-efficiency, less expensive system supply heat when additional heat is needed during cold periods.
- Users can now enter a target finish date and “backtrack” to predict when the crop should be started from plug stage.
- Students in the greenhouse industry can view photographs and track down additional information for all of the crops included in the software.
- Improved support in instructional videos. Click here for tutorials.
Like it? Don’t like it? Wish we would change something? We want to hear from you. Please contact us through the help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most of the features that are in the software now came from users like you. This is an ongoing project with no expiration date, so your suggestions will be considered and hopefully incorporated into the next version.
Download Virtual Grower 3 here.