Top of the Line Acrylic Glazing for a Year-Round Eco Ark

Sisters Holly and Heather have been operating the Eco Ark at Finn & Roots in Enosburg, Vermont ever since the founders handed over the reins in 2019. This commercial 6,000 square foot controlled environment agriculture building features top of the line materials including ACRYLITE® multi-skin acrylic to support an efficient year-round operation.

Stepping into Old Roots

Back in July of 2019, Holly was browsing the internet when she came across a listing for an eco-farm for sale in Vermont. "The name caught my attention, then I made the mistake of looking at the pictures and reading the description and it was love at first sight," Holly says jokingly as she reminisces about the start of her and her family’s journey from Colorado to the state known for its lush land. Now, she and her husband live on the beautiful terrain that is Finn & Roots, as Holly works alongside her sister Heather to operate the aquaponic greenhouse.

When Holly took over, she was stepping into a functioning operation. The previous owners researched, designed, and constructed the greenhouse back in 2014 when they had a vision of creating a fully operational aquaponic site and business. 16mm ACRYLITE® Alltop high impact UV filtering acrylic sheet was chosen during this time as it was food and fish safe, would not rot, deteriorate, or be conducive to mold or mildew, and was backed by a 30-year service life warranty.

"It was really important for them to have top of the line glazing for the Eco Ark which is what led them to ACRYLITE® multi-skin," says Holly. This acrylic glazing, in combination with high quality operating technologies, keeps the greenhouse functional and promotes optimal, year-round growing conditions thanks to its exceptional clarity. ACRYLITE® Alltop transmits 15% or more light as compared to competing materials – a distinct advantage contributing to growth results.

The previous owners grew just about everything in the greenhouse from flowers, lettuces, mints, herbs, onions, carrots, celery, and more. Holly and Heather stayed with a similar product blend for a long time and just last year started trying different things. "We can grow just about anything in the Eco Ark depending on the season. For the most part our bread and butter has been mixed greens," says Holly.

Growing in the Eco Ark

The crops at Finn & Roots thrive in the Eco Ark where they get at least 16 hours of light from the greenhouse glazing.

Growing in the Eco Ark

Finn & Roots signature living lettuce is a specialty full head of lettuce that's both fresh and tasty!

Growing in the Eco Ark

The Genovese Basil is another classic of Finn & Roots. They are harvested weekly, packaged, and sent to sell in local markets.

The Acrylic Advantage for Vermont’s Climate

ACRYLITE® multi-skin has proven its quality over the years. The best feature of this acrylic glazing material is that it provides the highest light penetration in combination with the greatest insulation value. This is especially important in the winter months when the Vermont climate doesn’t afford much sun. A single pane of glass might let in just as much light as acrylic but will not help keep the heat in like ACRYLITE® multi-skin acrylic does.

A 5th generation farmer

As a 5th generation farmer, Holly has experience in gardening and was exposed to the first aquaponics location in Denver, Colorado where she did some conservation social work. Little did she know, she would soon be operating her own aquaponics Eco Ark.

This material's thermal transmittance, known as the U-value, is low which means less energy passes through the material. This creates better insulation compared to materials with a higher U-value. Depending on ancillary conditions, 16 mm ACRYLITE® multi-skin sheets (U-value 0.44 Btu/h-ft2-F) can lead to over 40% energy savings in greenhouses compared to single glazing (U-value 1.0 Btu/h-ft2-F). These are savings that pay off and significantly reduce the environmental burden.

Overcoming Obstacles with the Help of the Experts

When Holly first took over, she was struggling with humidity problems. She never hesitated to reach out to our greenhouse expert, David Morrison, for advice. "My experience with David has been wonderful and he is very responsive, knowledgeable, and super helpful. He would take calls from me from inside the greenhouse on FaceTime and I’d be practically in tears asking him how to get rid of this humidity," explains Holly.

David advised Holly on the proper drainage of wall panels in order to prevent the buildup of condensation. "Ensuring condensation can readily drain from inside the chambers of the multi-skin is a detail that may be missed by designers and installers of multi-skin," says David. Multi-skin panels need to be held up off the bottom glazing channel by periodic "setting blocks" or by a lip in the glazing channel. This allows condensed water to easily drip out of the multi-skin chambers. Then, the glazing channel must be drained, typically by periodically drilling weep holes which is what Holly did. David points out that the top of the multi-skin panel should be taped closed to prevent moist air from flowing up into the chambers. This is because moist air is less dense than dry air and will naturally rise in the chambers if the top is open.

A big contributor to Holly’s humidity problem was the lack of cleaning of the acrylic. The material on the outside stays clean as the rain washes any residue off thanks to the No-Drip anti-condensate technology on the acrylic. However, the inside is where Holly needed to focus her efforts. Although the No-Drip anti-condensate technology is found on both sides of the ACRYLITE® Alltop sheet and within the chambers, the challenge was accessing the high up walls and roofs that are difficult to maintain. "There are things that I know I must do, like clean the windows. I have found that dirty glazing is a big contributor to moisture buildup, as the water loves to cling to the particles on the glazing, making the relative humidity worse." David advises to keep the acrylic clean for another important reason: "Dirty greenhouse glazing can significantly reduce the Daily Light Integral (DLI) delivered to the crop, increasing supplementary lighting costs or reducing yield," says David.

Keeping the acrylic clean

"Dirty greenhouse glazing can significantly reduce the Daily Light Integral (DLI) delivered to the crop, increasing supplementary lighting costs or reducing yield," says David Morrison, Technical Service & Compliance Engineer at POLYVANTIS Sanford LLC.

Keeping the acrylic clean

16mm ACRYLITE® Alltop high impact UV filtering acrylic sheet features a No-Drip anti-condensate technology on both sides of the sheet and within the chambers. This water-dispersing layer causes condensation to flow off as a continuous self-cleaning film, resulting in the highest possible light transmission and eliminating uncontrolled dripping that can result in crop damage and disease.

Powered by ACRYLITE®

The design of the Eco Ark has gained popularity over the years as it’s greatly contributed to the sustainable production of clean, healthy, and delicious food for the local community. Holly receives a lot of inquiries about the operation and says she would recommend ACRYLITE® multi-skin to anyone looking to start a similar venture. "I would definitely recommend ACRYLITE® multi-skin because it has just been such a great product for us," says Holly.

Four jumbo fish tanks in the Eco Ark

Over the last couple of years, Holly and Heather have harvested about 1,800 pounds of tilapia in the Eco Ark.

Four jumbo fish tanks in the Eco Ark

Finn & Roots does not sell the tilapia, but sells the filtered, fresh fish "manure" that is removed 24/7 from the fish system.

This glazing material has proved itself for many years already and will continue to help Holly grow quality produce well into the future. For anyone considering this material for their greenhouse, take the advice of David Morrison, Technical Engineer at POLYVANTIS Sanford LLC: "In cold climates, where there might not be a lot of sunlight year-round, the high light transmission and insulation value of 16 mm ACRYLITE® multi-skin can be critical to profitable agriculture."

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