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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOP MANAGEMENT TOOLS FOR EARLY STRESS DETECTION AND EFFICIENT AGROCHEMICAL UTILIZATION FOR PROTECTED HORTICULTURE CROPS

Location: Application Technology Research Unit

Title: Virtual Grower 3: A powerful decision support tool for greenhouse systems

Author
item Frantz, Jonathan

Submitted to: Greenhouse Product News
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 1, 2011
Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Citation: Frantz, J. 2011. Virtual Grower 3: A powerful decision support tool for greenhouse systems. Greenhouse Product News. October 2011:22-28.

Interpretive Summary: Several years ago, Virtual Grower software was released 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. Now, Virtual Grower can help not only identify heating 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. Virtual Grower 3 is the next installment in the software series. Released in August, 2011, this version is the first to be both Mac- and PC-compatible. 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. Users can now enter a target finish date and “backtrack” to predict when the crop should be started from plugs. The new version has nearly 800 locations across the U.S. represented for their weather, which is an increase of over 500 sites. Virtual Grower 3 can now accommodate dual-stage heating systems and apply them to as many greenhouses as you want. Students in the greenhouse industry can view photographs and track down additional information for all of the crops included in the software. All of these features are bolstered with graphics including a location map, photographs, responsive schematic drawings of your simulated greenhouse, and graphs and charts of the output. We also are creating a series of on-line videos that walk users through the basics of Virtual Grower 3. We always want to add more features and make it more user-friendly. For example, we hope to start incorporating information about sustainability or “footprint” tracking. This version of the software should improve the power of greenhouse management predictions as well as enhance the user experience.

Technical Abstract: Several years ago, Virtual Grower software was released 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. Now, Virtual Grower can help not only identify heating 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. Virtual Grower 3 is the next installment in the software series. Released in August, 2011, this version is the first to be both Mac- and PC-compatible. 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. Users can now enter a target finish date and “backtrack” to predict when the crop should be started from plugs. The new version has nearly 800 locations across the U.S. represented for their weather, which is an increase of over 500 sites. Virtual Grower 3 can now accommodate dual-stage heating systems and apply them to as many greenhouses as you want. Students in the greenhouse industry can view photographs and track down additional information for all of the crops included in the software. All of these features are bolstered with graphics including a location map, photographs, responsive schematic drawings of your simulated greenhouse, and graphs and charts of the output. We also are creating a series of on-line videos that walk users through the basics of Virtual Grower 3. We always want to add more features and make it more user-friendly. For example, we hope to start incorporating information about sustainability or “footprint” tracking. This version of the software should improve the power of greenhouse management predictions as well as enhance the user experience.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014