Casey Houweling has a lock on his dream of year-round tomato production in the Southern California desert with his semi-closed greenhouse system having recently earned a U.S. patent.
Trademarked as Ultra-Clima, the system already had patent protection in the Netherlands, Canada, Israel, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand when it earned a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in late February, said Houweling’s Tomatoes chief marketing officer David Bell in a news release.
Patent applications for the system are pending in Mexico, Turkey, Russia and the Middle East.
“We are no longer limited to specific areas for year-round production,” Houweling said in the release. “Ultra-Clima allows for local, consistent, year-round supply that consumers and retailers desire.”
As chief executive officer of the British Columbia, Canada-based company, Houweling began developing a semi-closed greenhouse system for the warm, dry area around Camarillo, Calif., in 2006.
His company had built its first greenhouse in the area in 1996 because of Houweling’s desire to produce a year-round supply of tomatoes. The climate in British Columbia limited production at Houweling’s greenhouses there to only eight months a year, according to www.houwelings.com.
It would take 3,000 acres of open fields to produce as many tomatoes as 125 acres under the Ultra-Clima system on an annual bases, according to a video on the Houweling’s tomatoes website.
With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, according to the company website, the Camarillo area was not only a good option for growing, but a good place for Houweling to apply solar power to his evolving greenhouse design.
The greenhouse grower has worked with Kubo Sustainable Greenhouse Projects in the Netherlands to manufacture the Ultra-Clima system since 2007. The company holds the exclusive worldwide rights to market and manufacture the system.
There are 23 Ultra-Clima greenhouses owned by 16 customers around the world, according to the Kubo website. They total more than 360 acres of greenhouse production area.
One of the advantages the technology offers is that it eliminates the need for screening to keep pests out of greenhouses. Such screens reduce light transmission in a greenhouse by up to 15%, according to the Houweling’s video.
Other advantages cited on the Kubo website include:
- Diminished pest pressure because the system eliminates the need for vents, which provide entrances for insects;
- Optimized humidity and temperature control;
- Higher COâ‚‚ levels inside the greenhouse;
- A greater buffer zone in the greenhouse by allowing for structures about 23-feet high, which results in a better growing climate;
- Minimal water usage through recirculation of water used for irrigation and nutrients; and
- Overall energy conservation of 15%-25%.