A growing number of feasibility projects for a water-based carbon dioxide application technology that improves greenhouse crop yields are now underway in Canada.
Launched in 2018 by Toronto-based CO2 GRO, the trademarked and patented CO2 Delivery Solutions system makes it possible for growers with greenhouses, hoop houses, tunnels or shaded structures to use CO2 supplementation on their crops.
Traditional CO2 treatments, which help crops grow larger faster, are costly and have to date only been feasible in sealed facilities.
Why it matters: According to CO2 Gro, greenhouses are a 50-billion square foot global market but only 15 per cent are capable of using CO2 gassing for any period of the year. That’s because even sealed facilities must use vents when temperatures get too warm..
“The ones that are able to gas with CO2 can get up to 30 per cent yield improvement when they are not venting,” says Corporate Development Manager Dil Vashi. “In Canada alone, Leamington is 80 million square feet and we know plants are not getting all the carbon they need, so we can give growers the yield they’re leaving on the vine.”
CO2 GRO’s technology safely dissolves CO2 into water and mists the saturated carbon dioxide solution directly onto the plants, making it feasible for all growers, all year long, he notes.
“Any crops that have leaves and we can spray onto will respond favourably, with a 20 to 30 per cent lift in yield on average, and that’s including hemp and cannabis,” he says.
“Our customers will see the difference in only days due to increased cholorophyll counts – darker, richer, greener leaves that grow faster within a week,” adds Sam Kanes, vice-president of market research and analytics.
The system is designed to be installed in all types of covered growing structures, both existing and new, with light-weight, one-inch pipes and misting nozzles installed approximately every 10 feet.
The CO2 infusing technology is located inside the water reservoir, and depending on the crop and grower needs, mist is applied for a few seconds one to three times an hour during daylight hours.
That translates into as little as one minute of misting daily, which uses significantly less CO2 than conventional application through the air, notes Vashi, and with low power usage, operating costs are estimated at less than a nickel per square foot per year.
“Return on investment for the grower is a one to two year payback, and because our operating costs are low, 95 per cent of the increase in production will go to the bottom line,” he says.
The company announced its first Canadian feasibility project in February, for Leamington-based tomato grower Prism Farms, and has been steadily announcing additional projects in Canada throughout 2021, many with cannabis growers.
A feasibility project is designed to show efficacy in a facility, optimize performance and set a baseline as a final step before installing a complete system across an entire facility.
CO2 GRO has customers all over the world, using the technology in everything from peppers and strawberries to flowers, leafy greens, hemp and more.
Early in 2021, the company was chosen to be part of the Canadian Technology Accelerator cohort program in Mexico, which is offered by Canada’s trade commission service to give market-ready Canadian companies a chance to showcase their technology to global markets.
That led to an introduction to Rancho Nexo, a Guelph-based company that represents mostly Canadian agtech firms in Latin America, and in June, the companies announced an agreement for Rancho Nexo to market the CO2 GRO system in Mexico.
“The trade commissioner there has been fantastic. They did a lot of front end training for us to help us understand the culture, which is so important,” says Kanes.
“The Mexico market is over four billion square feet and this could be a game changer for the whole industry there.”