You don't need to know the street name to find Rosa Flora owned by Otto Bulk. When you get to Dunnville, all you have to do is cast your eye over the horizon and you will see the Rosa Flora big wind turbine as it rotates in the breeze.
The weather conditions in the Niagara region, aside from temperature, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, are favorable as there is a gentle breeze most of the time. Rising electricity prices prompted Otto Bulk to look for alternatives to conventional energy sources: "We wanted to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels." So he soon had the idea of using a wind turbine, which supplies up to 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, a large share of the power his operation needs.
The big differences in temperature are naturally reflected in the energy consumption. Otto Bulk is less worried about high energy prices than other growers, not just because he has installed his own wind power plant, but also because his company has been building its greenhouses with ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin for many years: "The material's high heat insulation saves us a lot of energy. Compared with glass, we save about one million dollars a year."
Otto Bulk relies on a mixture of different alternative energy sources in conjunction with energy-saving ACRYLITE® acrylic glazing to combat rising energy costs. As you exit the greenhouses, across an open area designated for future expansion, stands a building containing his bio-mass boiler. Beside this structure stands a mountain of industrial waste wood, where a large back-hoe scoops up buckets of wood. The waste wood is conveyed to a vibrator/sorter to eliminate non combustible pieces, and then into the furnace "We use this to heat water to 90 degrees Celsius (194°F), which is circulated through the heating system for our greenhouses," explains Otto.
Otto Bulk has been in business for 30 years. He and his wife, Corine, began their company in 1978, initially specializing in roses. But they have modified their product range over the years: "We just couldn't compete with South American rose growers. The roses from there aren't just cheaper, they are better too," he freely admits. Today, the 150 workers at his greenhouse operation produce Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lilies), snapdragons, Sweetheart Roses, stephanotis and gerbera on a cultivation area of 106,000 square meters (~1,000,000 square feet). Gerbera has become very popular recently.
"Eighty percent of Rosa Flora’s sales are exported to the US with the balance sold within Canada. Quality is the highest priority to stay in business in this market. ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin helps to do just that because it transmits around 86 percent of light, “That makes our flowers more colorful and helps them grow faster and more vigorously."
Otto Bulk previously experimented with other materials. In the early 1990s he installed several thousand square feet of twin-wall polycarbonate in one of his greenhouses. "We were not at all satisfied with the result – the sheets quickly turned yellow and had to be replaced. We replaced them with non-yellowing ACRYLITE®. Even the 20-year-old acrylic is as clear as the day we installed it." Meanwhile, a total of 80,000 square meters (~850,000 ft²) of ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin have been installed at Rosa Flora.
Otto Bulk has come a good deal closer to his aim of producing in an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way, and at the same time of becoming independent of conventional fuels. With his threefold combination of wind energy, wood heating and ACRYLITE® acrylic sheet, the Canadian who emigrated from the Netherlands has become a kind of beacon in his branch of industry, not just because you can see his wind turbine from miles away, but also because he sets a recognized example of state-of-the-art production. In 2006, he received a national award for his energy-saving concept.
Otto Bulk looks with confidence to the future. His wind turbine investment in wind energy will be paid off in six to eight years, and he has no need to worry about his greenhouse glazing, which will go on ensuring optimum light yields and heat insulation for decades to come.
Location: Dunnville, Ontario, Canada
Fabricator: Otto Bulk
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