Mini-Air is a new covering system for soft fruits such as strawberries and blackberries. Developed by Meteor Systems from the Netherlands, Mini-Air provides protection from the elements and an ideal growing environment. Meteor Systems utilises Granite® from ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products to create growing gutters which are an integral part of the Mini-Air system. Normally used for cladding, roofs and gutters, Granite® can also withstand the aggressive growing environment required for strawberries and remains food safe over the decade-long life of the tray.
Meteor Systems developed the Mini-Air system to create the ideal climate for crops. The low structure offers good ventilation, necessary to minimise the chance of disease or moisture affecting the crop. Gutters at the roof level gather rain from the covers which can be stored and used to water the plants. Underneath the cover, the Granite® growing beds are raised to create an ergonomic working environment for pickers and maintenance personnel.
Granite® is food safe, and 100 percent recyclable at the end of its life
A key advantage of Mini-Air is that it can be tailored to the constraints of each location, as Sebastiaan Smeur, account manager for Meteor Systems explains: “Mini-Air is designed to be installed on site by a fruit grower or local contractor. They just need simple tools to complete the installation. For example, the Granite® steel is roll-formed into growing gutters to ensure there are no joins.”
Each gutter can be up to 300 metres in length, although 100 metres is usually specified as it is the best length for maintenance and picking. However, the exact length can be decided by the grower in line with their practices and the area available.
Meteor Systems typically uses Granite® Standard or HDS to form the growing trays. The steel is either 0.6 or 0.8 mm thick, depending on the fruit to be grown. As well as supporting the growing plants, the gutter enables growers to re-use excess water. “Growers typically give plants 125 percent of the water and nutrients they need,” explains Sebastiaan Smeur. “The water the plants don’t use is collected and analysed. For example, growers can check the volume of water consumed, and what nutrients are left in the water. This allows them to closely monitor the health of their plants and adjust the parameters if required.”
Assembly of the growing gutters, including roll-forming, takes place on site
The substrate used to grow strawberries is very aggressive. Nutrients which are added to the irrigation water can also have an impact. “Granite® is ideal in this application because it has multiple coating layers,” notes Sebastiaan Smeur. “We can specify polyurethane and polyester coatings on one or both sides, depending on the plants to be grown.”
Granite® is part of ArcelorMittal's Nature range. These steels do not contain hexavalent chromium (recognised as a human carcinogen) or heavy metals and comply with Europe’s REACH regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals.
The substrate used to grow strawberries is extremely aggressive, but Granite® remains durable
ArcelorMittal and Meteor Systems first started working together in the late 1990s. At that time, Meteor Systems began producing its first growing gutters using steel from ArcelorMittal. “We’ve been making these systems for almost 20 years and the first project we installed is still in use,” says Sebastiaan Smeur.
Meteor Systems was founded in 1997 to manufacture drip irrigation systems for vegetable and fruit growers. Today the company develops, produces, and supplies the international horticulture industry with complete and moveable systems for cultivation, irrigation, and growing. Meteor Systems is headquartered in Breda (the Netherlands) and has offices and a production facility in Ontario (Canada).
More info: www.meteorsystems.nl
Introduced in 2016, the Mini-Air system is now being used by fruit growers around the world to grow strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. “Mini-Air was developed with the involvement of growers and to solve their problems,” says Sebastiaan Smeur. “We continue to work with them after the system is installed to find ways we can make it easier to install and use.”
Growers typically order a Mini-Air system directly from Meteor Systems. The company then ships everything as a flat pack. “It’s like an Ikea product but on a much larger scale,” says Sebastiaan Smeur. “Everything the grower needs is there, including an installation manual. They can build it themselves or hire a local contractor to do the installation.”
Meteor Systems is regularly in contact with ArcelorMittal’s technical support teams. “ArcelorMittal is very reliable and produces good quality steels,” says Sebastiaan Smeur. “With ArcelorMittal we have a long and close relationship and we work very easily together. If we have a problem, we know they can help.”
The exact length of the Granite® gutters can be decided by the grower in line with their practices and the area available
The following table shows some of the mechanical and resistance properties of Granite® Standard and Granite® HDS:
|Granite® Standard||Granite® HDS|
|Thickness||25 microns||35 microns|
|Salt spray test||360 hours||500 hours|
|Corrosion resistance category||RC3||RC4|
|UV resistance category||RUV2||RUV4|
|Coating adhesion (T-bend)||≤ 2 T||≤ 1 T|
|Resistance to cracking on bending (T-bend)||≤ 3 T||≤ 2 T|
|Impact resistance||18 J||18 J|
|Clemen scratch resistance||≥ 2.0 kg||≥ 2.2 kg|
Copyright images: Meteor Systems