Well...it has been a long, long time since I have posted anything on the blog. Time flies by at times and it is easy to lose track of the months since the last posting. However, I am back :-) and will become more diligent in sharing my thoughts with you.
In the last couple of months I have participated in two unique meetings organized by "the Vertical Exchange" folks. One of the meetings focused on the food industry and the other focused on design/build contractors. Mestex is such a diverse division of Mestek that we have solutions for projects in both of those segments...among many others. There was an overlap between those two markets that might not, at first, seem obvious.
Increasing population densities in many parts of the world combined with changing climates is beginning to impact the ability of food companies to grow quality produce in the volumes needed. There is also the specialized "boutique" grower who supports the "farm to table" concept in urban environments. A solution to these scenarios that is emerging is the world of "indoor agriculture". This goes well beyond traditional greenhouse facilities. Indoor farms use sophisticated lighting, watering, and nutrient systems to grow produce 24/7/365 in controlled environments. These facilities can be single story purpose built buildings, multi-story repurposed commercial buildings, or even "modular" buildings similar to modular data centers. With the exception of the modular solutions all of these projects require the talents of design/build contractors for proper execution. Even the modular solutions that are "factory built" still require qualified on-site contracting for completion of the project.
From a mechanical design point of view these facilities can be quite challenging. In order to create an artificial environment for growing plants the power demands of the lights used to create an "artificial sun" will create very high thermal loads. The watering and transpiration of the plants creates high latent loads on the HVAC equipment. Providing the necessary CO2 without creating a hazard for employees is also important and, finally, preventing the introduction of pests and unwanted biological hazards requires very high levels of filtration.
In short....the HVAC systems must be able to handle very high sensible loads, very high latent loads, very high filter densities, and include controls that can flush a grow space quickly and efficiently...preferably all in one package! No small task.
Mestex has had decades of experience providing equipment to the food industry and to design/build contractors. We are leveraging that experience to develop solutions to the problem of indoor agriculture. One of the first areas where we are working is in the world of cannabis growing. This market is unique in that the revenue stream and profits are large enough to justify development of an advanced HVAC solution that accomplishes all of the needed functions in a single package. The lessons learned in that market will transfer to more cost sensitive indoor agriculture products that can help meet the demands of those markets as well.
For more information about some of the work being done by Mestex you can refer to a couple of articles that were published by Business News Publishing for the 2016 Mechanical Exchange. This link (http://eblast.bnpmedia.com/News/MXC_0916/MXC.html) will take you to the eblast site where you can open the entire Air Conditioning News supplement.