Light Dep Systems & Greenhouse Building Guide

2017 Growing Season Spotlight: Light Dep Systems & Greenhouse Buildings

PRO Greenhouse & Light Dep Building Tips, No Electricity Required

Greenhouse growing and Light Dep systems are a growing trend, as once exclusively Indoor Gardeners are starting to think BIG HARVESTS while lowering production costs.

Traditionally, setting up a greenhouse growing operation, especially using a light deprivation system to induce earlier flowering under natural lighting conditions in short day plants, was a great big and expensive hullaballoo i.e. cost prohibitive and lots of headaches.

[quote]we are talking about real greenhouses, ones that serve as walk-in buildings and that are built to a minimum of local farm building codes[/quote]

These days there are lots of ready to build greenhouse kits available—and a growing list of suppliers that offer them.  But first, we need to get something straight here: we are talking about real greenhouses, ones that serve as walk-in buildings and that are built to a minimum of local farm building codes; no PVC hoops here (no offence to the hardcore DIY’r who doesn’t mind building and replacing the same thing annually).

One innovative company we are familiar with at Grozine is Steele Greenhouse Components, and of course, Brian Steele founder and long standing British Columbia based greenhouse structure guru and generally nice guy.

Steele has been designing and manufacturing greenhouses for a lifetime.  Besides manufacturing structures from raw material, he is intimately familiar with innovative adaptations like no-electricity required effective venting, rolling benches, trolly systems, shade structures, propagation houses and of course, the increasingly popular Light Dep system.

We caught up with Brian, who manufactures greenhouse structures and supplies any kind of part you could think of across North America, from his location on one of British Columbia’s very beautiful Gulf Islands.

Instead of boring you with the engineering equations that make greenhouses stronger and more cost effective to build, we thought we could share with you some of the more practical gems and applications Brian would share with us when it comes to setting up a greenhouse, whether for growing your own food at home to supplying an entire community.

What is the most common mistake you see people new to greenhouse structures make when starting out on their project?

Hi Erik ,

Hobby and commercial growers make their own sets of mistakes.

Hobby growers are often short on building skills, small greenhouses have all the complexities of their larger counterparts.   Good venting can be very hard to achieve in a small greenhouses, not much air volume to buffer temperature moves.

Commercial growers need to plan for labour efficiencies right from the start.   

Your designs and connections look at little different than the Hoop Houses we sometimes see, tell us why Gothic Arch—and more about using wire clips instead of drilled holes and bolts?

Our hoop houses are a hybrid of North American and South Korean design.   Gothic shape is a NA concept, excellent for snow shed and reducing interior condensation drip.  From Korea we borrowed their wire strap system and other brackets for connecting framing members, we don’t weaken the frame by drilling holes in the bows.

Drilled holes are the most common failure point in the bow.

At what size point do you see limits in Light Dep systems, ie what’s the practical smallest and just how big can you go, assuming one to three operators are involved with a project?

Just about any size hoop house can be converted.

Good success with automating exterior systems in houses in the 24’ X 50’ range.

Some reforestation operators (shorter days improve stem strength in conifers) are using chain pull cranks with 150’ long houses – kind of a hand-draulic arrangement, usually just one operator.

Freight must be a consideration where you are located, as in shipping big heavy bundles of steel.  How have you been able to reach so many customers with your structures and components at significant distances? (hint: talk about jigs, local materials—you supply specialty hardware and designs—mention healthy exchange rate, ie value for USA customers)

We have made huge strides in palletizing frames, but there are limits as to how far you can go – multiple handling in the freight system will eventually damage the product.  Our focus is local for greenhouses, for upgrades in venting, light dep, etc we work with growers from all over the place.  We mail core components  and then direct growers to local building supply stores to get what they need to finish the install.  This has worked very well.

What do you see as future and present trends for the home to small commercial greenhouse operator, any technologies or concepts that have you especially excited?

Twenty years ago there was a lot of interest in wavelength selective coverings (poly and polycarbonate) both to add more light in the photosynthetic range and to knock out the wavelengths needed for moulds to reproduce.  I think we will return to this, it was just too far ahead of its time.

Brian Steele, Steele Greenhouse Components Inc.
Want to LEARN MORE Greenhouse Basics?  Click HERE
About Erik Biksa 247 Articles
Erik Biksa has been writing about and discussing hydroponics growing, related technologies and cropping methods since 1999 in a variety of professional publications and platforms globally Erik has travelled the world learning and teaching modern growing techniques and technologies and is appreciated by many growers for his informative yet hands on approaches. Presently, he is the Editor at Grozine Hydroponics Mag.