ITS Boom Irrigation System

December 12, 2003 - 08:29

What growers are saying about this system and how it works for them.

Looking for an irrigation system for your greenhouse
requires finding a system that is cost effective, easy to use and right for
you. The ITS Boom Irrigation System from Solaris, a division of McConkey Co.,
Sumner, Wash., offers the versatility growers need. This system is highly
automated, has uniform application and a free maintenance track record.

Features and Benefits

According to the manufacturers, the system has a single- and
double-rail track option. The boom's automated transfer system is engineered to
transfer the ITS irrigator inside or outside gutter connected ranges, and the
two rail irrigators can be transferred from bay to bay along inside end walls,
center aisles or gutter connected ranges. A transfer between quonsets is also
available.

Efficiency

The boom system is highly automated, which makes the
irrigation process very efficient. Jim Finch, greenhouse manager of Washington
Bulb, Mt. Vernon, Wash., said they use 12 systems for their 15-acre production.
"We were doing everything by hand before we purchased the boom systems in
2001," Finch said. "Because of the type of business we do, our
greenhouse changes daily, and this systems gives us the flexibility to program
daily, semi-weekly or whatever it takes to meet the water needs of that
environment."

According to Finch, they have seen a great reduction in
irrigation labor and fertilizer usage and their production has become more
efficient. "Automatic irrigation helps improve the quality of the crop.
When you take the human factor out of irrigation and you have consistency with
the machine, you have consistency in your crop," Finch explained.
"Unlike watering by hand, with this machine we can put specific amounts of
water in certain areas according to varieties and locations within that
house."

Uniformity

The boom system's adjustable nozzles, which can be adjusted
from a fine mist to a course one, give growers the flexibility to irrigate
seedling plugs and unrooted cuttings as well.

Sportel Greenhouse, Kalamazoo, Mich., acquired its first
irrigation systems about nine years ago, and according to owner Ron Sportel,
they have been very reliable. "Most of my booms are in the propagation
areas, either in our plug or cutting range," Sportel said. He finds the
adjustable nozzles very useful for this type of production and believes the
three different-size nozzles give growers the option to start with fine mist,
and as the crop progresses, to use the bigger nozzles. "Because the boom
has a softer mister, it doesn't blow the plants out, and there is less loss
that can be attributed to overwatering," Sportel explained. "When you
don't have as many misses, you don't have as much patching to do. So when it
comes time to ship, you've got a better product and less time in
shipping."

Maneuverability

The boom's hoses are kept out of the way with a Center Feed
or End Feed system, according to the manufacturers.

Center Feed. This system allows the hose to lay flat
alongside either a single- or double-rail track, and it is held by track
rollers.

End Feed. This system coils in loops suspended below the
track from trolleys that are pulled along the track by the irrigator. This is
ideal for greenhouses with enough vertical space for hanging hoses. Water is
fed to the boom from its source at the end of the bay. Both systems keep hoses
out of the way and help them last longer.

"All of my booms have carts on them," Sportel
said. "This is very important because the locations where we have them has
benches, and you can't have hoses hanging down. It also helps us move our
product around without having hoses in the way."

Maintenance

John Dehaan, president of Westview Nursery, Grandville,
Mich., had his first booms installed in 1985, and they haven't had many
problems. "We have upgraded them over the years, and we've had to replace
a power supply, but the first one we put in is still using the original
board."

However, according to Dehaan, it is very important to keep
the nozzles clean to maintain the uniformity of application. "They will
clog up every once in a while, but you just have to take them off seasonally
and get them cleaned," Dehaan explained. "The uniformity really
depends on nozzles working properly."

Final thoughts

Cost is certainly important when investing in an irrigation
system or any greenhouse automation; however, according to these growers, a
production's size is not necessarily a critical factor. "We need to be as
efficient as possible internally to be successful," Sportel said.
"And I think that this system could be one of many things that can be done
to make us more efficient, do a better job and be more competitive." style="mso-spacerun: yes">

About The Author

Neda Simeonova is associate editor for GPN. She can be reached by phone at (847) 391-1013 or E-mail at nsimeonova@sgcmail.com.

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