Big Marble Farms announced a new project today to reduce the impact of the grow lights in its greenhouses just outside the city.
In a press release to the News, Big Marble Farms outlined plans to install ceiling blackout curtains on all existing greenhouses. The release stated that “the project will significantly decrease the amount of light emitted during the winter months and reduce the impact of our business on the broader community.”
“We really want to make sure that we have a positive impact on the community and we’ve really seen the support from the community and surrounding area,” Ryan Cramer, CEO of Big Marble Farms, told the News. “We have also seen that these greenhouses with lights in them give off a lot of light in the winter season.”
Over the last two years, Big Marble Farms has increased greenhouse space by 20 acres, adding a 10-acre greenhouse in 2020 and another in 2021. The two new greenhouses are already fitted with ceiling blackout curtains in accordance with a new bylaw that was passed.
“Last year we did a 10-acre expansion. It was the very first greenhouse that we built where it was under the bylaw that we needed blackout screens and we installed them of course,” said Cramer. “I think we were pretty blown away by the impact that it had.”
Now Big Marble Farms will retrofit blackout curtains on the remaining 35 acres of older greenhouses.
“Once the new project is finalized, all 55 acres of greenhouse will have ceiling blackout curtains, significantly reducing the visual impact of our operations. The work of retrofitting the greenhouse will begin in fall 2021 and will be completed in the second half of 2022,” said the release.
Cramer says the blackout curtains are like pulling a blanket over the whole crop at night.
“It’s on a series of cables so that it’s kept very uniform; it doesn’t sag or flop around,” explained Cramer. “It’s driven by electric motors that are able to pull it and retract it open and closed based on what the computer asks it to do. We set it so that as soon as there’s sunlight, it opens, and as soon as the sunlight is gone, then it’ll close. That will keep the light in the greenhouse when the lights are on, but it’ll also let the sunshine into the greenhouse when the sun is out.
A statement from Cramer included in the press release states:
“When we started 12 years ago, it was hard to imagine that our business would look like it does today. The community has been very supportive, and we do not take for granted how our operations affect those around us. We love growing and doing business here. This project is a proactive step to reduce the impact on our friends and neighbours.”
LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News