With farms on Oahu, Maui and Molokai, Bayer Hawaii is one of the largest contributors to Hawaii’s agriculture industry. Today, science innovations and advancements in digital tools are helping Bayer and farmers around the world identify new solutions that help address challenges, all while using less natural resources. One of those tools is the use of shadehouses or screenhouses, which not only contribute to land savings, but they allow farmers to conserve water and other natural resources.
Shadehouses and screenhouses control growing conditions by reducing insect pressure, increasing growing degree units, control irrigation, and more. They are used to protect the plant as much as possible during its biological lifecycle.
Bayer has adopted this model at its farm on Maui and is currently utilizing one shadehouse and three screenhouses for farming operations. Built about 10 years ago, the shadehouse is where Bayer starts all of its seedlings before being transplanted into either the field or one of the screenhouses. Shadehouses have higher germination rates due to reduced exposure to agronomic issues. The shadehouse model reduces Bayer Hawaii’s land usage footprint by more than 80 percent.
The three 20,000 sq. ft. screenhouses were constructed and put into operation about one year ago. The initial purpose for construction of the screenhouses was to move the nurseries out of the fields where the plants are exposed to the various stresses that are associated with field plantings, including insect pressure, weed pressure, soil inconsistencies and wind.
What’s the difference between a shadehouse and a screenhouse?
A shadehouse is very similar to a greenhouse, except that the roof is made of a clear plastic and the walls are made out of a mesh to allow wind to move through it. A screenhouse is made of a mesh that is specifically designed to exclude insects that would normally feed on crops.
The shadehouse that is currently in operation at Bayer’s Maui farm is completely automated and is taking constant weather readings, including wind, rain and amount of sunlight. Based on these readings, the house is able to maintain a specific temperature and the farmers can control the amount of sun that is on the inside by opening and closing vents along the ceiling and walls, as well as robotically pulling shadecloths over if the sunlight is too intense.
Bayer uses the shadehouse to germinate its plants before transplanting them to either the screenhouses or to a field roughly two weeks after planting them. Once a crop is transplanted to a screenhouse, it will remain there for the remainder of its life cycle.
Since Bayer began growing in the screenhouses and shadehouse, they have shown a 30% increase in yield as well as reduction in resources needed to produce their crops, including water and fertilizer. Based on these results, the company is looking to expand its use of these tools.
Bayer Hawaii is committed to sustainability and looks forward to expanding its shadehouse and screenhouse practices within the state to all of its farms to further drive Bayer’s sustainable farming practices and initiatives here in the Hawaiian islands.