The effects of hail or storms on crops and plants can be devastating. With extreme weather conditions on the increase around the world, a new automated protection net system offers peace-of-mind, without the hassle and cost of manual labour. Static, net-based hail protection systems are not uncommon. Depending on their size, they require a significant number of people to manually pull them into place. This costs both time and money, and is clearly limited by people being available.
They are installed in the spring and removed at the end of the season. During this period the nets remain in place. Different crops need full exposure to sunlight and air for best results during the growing season, so a static net clearly isn’t optimal. A new product that can be opened and closed electronically using a smartphone is now available. Full protection in just a few minutes. Once the hail storm has passed the protection can be opened in the same way. The grower can operate the system from anywhere in the world
The closed or partially closed nets, adjusted using a smartphone, can also be used to manage the climate for the plants under the net. A micro-climate is created by closing the net, which allows the grower to reduce undesirable weather influences such as wind, and can even offer protection against mild frost. Other added benefits include the exclusion of insects and a reduction of airborne weed seeds.
With their seventh automated system now installed, Robert Vink, Sales Manager at APS Holland says that they’ve even discovered benefits they hadn’t considered: “One customer was thrilled that during crop spraying, with the protection closed, he was able to direct the spray exactly where he wanted it, with no chance of wind drift. This is difficult to achieve even with low wind conditions.” Of course, traditional nets can offer similar protection, however the time and manual effort required to open and close them, is prohibitive. Due to the simple activation using a smartphone app, growers can adjust the opening until the desired micro-climate is achieved.
In remote areas, electricity is not always available. “With just a few solar panels - even in Northern Europe - and a battery pack the automated protection can be opened and closed without any problem, fully powered by renewable energy,” says Vink. For this the product uses special low voltage motors. Just one special low voltage motor can completely close a hail net of 5,000 m2 in about 7 minutes.