Westport, CT, USA – Alquimi Renewables, LLC (“Alquimi”) and its EPC division, Clarusys, have filed U.S. and international patents on the first CAT4 hurricane-resistant commercial scale greenhouse structures, according to a press release. The system was engineered specifically to address the challenges in protected agricultural development in high-risk climate areas including the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, which are constantly threatened by hurricanes and typhoons. The system will withstand up to Category 4 hurricane strength (Saffir-Simpson scale) with sustained winds up to 156mph. The greenhouse structure utilizes galvanized steel arch frames, double-walled polycarbonate panels, and the patented ground screw anchoring system. Additionally, a wind deflection system and hurricane-resistant racking and tracking systems for the integrated use of solar panels are part of the the overall design.
“For the first time in history, new technologies in greenhouse structural engineering, combined with our off-grid energy systems (solar and/or WTE cogeneration), environmental controls, and the latest in hydroponic growing systems will allow us to escalate commercial scale fresh food production in regions that have been limited to relatively small scale traditional farming that cannot produce enough food to meet its own needs,” said Ralph Birkhoff, one of Alquimi’s principal partners.
The Caribbean region as an example, currently imports over 80 percent of its annual fresh produce needs to meet the demands of its retailers and growing tourism industry. Consequently these food products are expensive, lacking in quality and nutritional content, and the supply chain can be inconsistent. “Regional grocery chains are constantly faced with challenges in maintaining a fresh produce supply chain and keeping these products fresh on their shelves,” said Birkhoff. “Fresh berry fruits, various lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes, are in high demand and can be available one day and gone the next.”
The Alquimi greenhouse production model for small island states is the first comprehensive growing solution that will generate local production of currently imported produce on a scale that will make a difference to the local economies, according to the release. Each 20 acre operation includes a 620,000 square foot greenhouse structure, a 28,000 sf production and packaging facility, and a custom designed off grid energy generation system (either solar or WTE CCHP cogeneration) producing approximately 1.6MW for baseload operational power. “Depending on crop mix allocations from our customers the system will produce about 3,500 tons of fresh produce annually, but from current buyer demand we already know we are going to have to increase this scale - even for smaller islands”.
Alquimi has pre-commitments signed for over 70 percent of the planned greenhouse production from regional grocery chains, resort companies, and agri-processing companies across the Caribbean and Pacific Islands who are eager to access a local production of fresh produce and fruit. Alquimi has also signed a partnership agreement with Netherlands based FarmedToday which will provide the first online marketplace in the Caribbean for fresh produce and local food items. Supply will come from the Alquimi operations, plus locally produced crops, meats, and packaged food items. “This will provide local producers access to our supply chain and promote trade opportunities between the Caribbean and the European market”.
Alquimi is working with regional agriculture and energy developers across the Caribbean region including USAID (CARCEP), CARDI, World Bank, and the OECS Agricultural Unit, as well as national agricultural ministries, to integrate its commercial growing platform with local production, and to promote access to greenhouse technologies to local commercial farmers. “Critical to our success is to recognize that there is already a solid focus on agricultural development in each island across the Caribbean region. We want to be a part of that development by partnering with private and public sector stakeholders, and providing them with technology access and financing solutions” said Birkhoff. Alquimi intends to offer training in hydroponic growing to attract youth back to farming, in a region where the average farmer is about 55 years old.
Alquimi is currently seeking established greenhouse growing companies from Canada, the U.S., and Europe to partner with the consortium on these projects. “We have four projects approaching design/build stage, seven others in advanced pre-development, and about 14 others identified, so we are now seeking additional experienced grower companies to join us and take advantage of this tremendous business opportunity” said Birkhoff.