While the life standard of the increasing world population is developing, the global environment faces more and more problems. Global warming is being accompanied by droughts, floods and heavy storms, the extinction of species and the loss of arable land. In the long run, food security cannot be seen as self-evident.
AGC has been proactively addressing environmental issues from its foundation to the present. One of the solutions AGC provides is F-CLEAN™, a fluorine film with excellent transparency and durability that can use solar energy effectively in many ways and various applications – for example Solar Water Desalination Systems, Food Drying Systems and Solar Greenhouses.
Franz Schreier, a representative of EBF GmbH, a German company, works as an energy consultant for international customers. Being a physicist, he has conducted energy-related consultancy for industrial companies and other big organizations. Additionally, in order to promote a sustainable food supply system considering the global environment, he has been working with AGC for many years to apply F-CLEAN™, manufactured and supplied by AGC.
"The businesses of many companies rely mainly on fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas. Although these fossil fuels are very convenient and very easy to apply, CO2 emissions, which are inducing global warming, have been regarded as a problem. Global warming is accelerating year by year, and such climate change is jeopardizing the living conditions on our planet. So, I decided to develop ecological systems which are consequently working without fossil fuels. F-CLEAN™ is an amazing material which opens a degree of freedom to utilize solar energy in many ways. With F-CLEAN™ and the support of AGC we have been able to develop Integrated Food & Energy Systems which allow us to support a better life in harmony with nature."
The industry likes carbon-based fossil fuels for their high energy density, which is very easy to control and available anytime and anywhere. Fossil fuels can generate a large power output even in small spaces. On the other hand, solar energy reaching our planet has a much lower energy density than fire from fossil fuels and require thus large surfaces to be collected. Consequently, Mr. Franz Schreier decided to seek out a solution how to use solar energy in food related systems.
"When considering who has experience in dealing with large spaces to collect solar energy, greenhouse farmers came into my mind. Furthermore, I imagined greenhouse farmers and people in the horticulture industry have extensive knowledge on how to build large solar energy collecting structures economically. As such, I first thought that there might be a hint in ‘horticulture’ which enables us to learn how to build economic structures. But when I talked to a lot of people in the horticultural industry I learned that they depend on high energy inputs, typically fossil fuels, to maintain the necessary temperatures, humidities and light intensities in the greenhouses all year round. In other words, without fossil fuels it is impossible to provide enough food with our existing food system. But, we are running out of low cost fossil fuels in the long run! To solve this dilemma, the initial goal was to design a growing system which does not require fossil fuels, or even better, which can generate solar energy while producing vegetables and fish."
Just as he said, he began developing a new system that can produce food without fossil fuels. Then, about 10 years ago, he came up with the idea to utilize Aquaponics (Aquaculture and Hydroponic), and his Solar Greenhouse provided the necessary renewable-energy-controlled growing environment.
Aquaponics combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponic (soilless) growing systems in a symbiotic way. In an aquaponic system, the water with excrement from the fish tank is fed to a hydroponic part of the system where it is utilized by the plants. The excrements (nutrients) are absorbed by the roots of the plants and the water is cleaned. The water is then recirculated back to the fish tank.
The fish tank is located in the greenhouse and is thus not only the housing for the fish, but its big water volume also provides a great benefit in terms of thermodynamics. The big heat capacity of the water volume buffers the greenhouse climate in winter and keeps it free from frost without burning fossil fuels."
"As a result of various investigations, I found that the Sun Light Greenhouse, common in China, is the most energy efficient greenhouse concept in the world. But there was one major weak point in this greenhouse concept. The material covering the Chinese Sun Light Greenhouse is generally polyethylene. Because of the comparatively low transparency of polyethylene which even degrades over time, the photosynthesis of plants and thus their growth is not the best.
Additionally, the durability (mechanical strength) of polyethylene also degrades over time. It has to be replaced latest every 4 to 5 years. Fortunately, I found F-CLEAN™ and contacted AGC. That was about 10 years ago."
We went through many trials and errors to finally reach an optimized overall Solar Greenhouse solution. Without any doubt, the key element of our Solar Greenhouse is the covering material. AGC’s F-CLEAN™ is outperforming any other covering material and helped greatly in realizing our concept.
“While intensifying the business relationship with AGC, I was impressed with AGC’s business concept . I found the book ‘Conditions for Survival’ in the lobby of AGC’s European office in Amsterdam, published by the Asahi Glass Foundation and was able to read the foundation’s thoughts about global environmental issues, actions to be taken and possible solutions.”
"I felt that there was truly something in common with my thoughts and the mission of AGC Chemicals called 'Chemistry for a Blue Planet.'
“And one of the reasons why I was attracted to F-CLEAN™ is the high transmittance of light in the whole sunlight spectrum, even in the UV range. Ultraviolet light is an important element for growing food. For example, it improves the disease resistance of the plant itself, resulting in a great reduction of agro chemicals used. Also, based on the known fact that a 1% loss of light will lead to a 1% loss of production in greenhouses, F-CLEAN™ is economically the most beneficial for growing food.
Another advantage is that it will not deteriorate, even after 20 years of exposure to harsh environments.
Additionally, F-CLEAN™ is incombustible, and fulfills tough conditions of fire protection laws. If it is installed and maintained properly, it will last for an extremely long time - this is my personal belief!"
The Solar Greenhouse with Aquaponic can effectively generate and use renewable energy while producing healthy food at the same time. It is said that every year, the number of users increases all over the world. And, in order to further expand its impact, several new approaches are possible.
"For example, when it will be understood, that the Solar Greenhouse provides an adequate growing environment for Aquaponics, local production for local consumption in the city will become more and more popular and will one day be a standard within the urban farming movement. Furthermore, I believe that it will contribute not only to food production, but also to the reduction of the immense effort of food transportation.
In the future, by covering buildings with F-CLEAN™ membrane roofs it will be possible to create comfortable urban living space which allows you to spend time without being concerned about bad environmental impacts. Having said that, we believe that we need to create and provide a better living environment that can produce food with even less energy in any place, not only in the cities. We believe that solutions using F-CLEAN™ will provide direct benefits to people's lives around the world."
Mr. Franz Schreier, the representative of EBF GmbH who is also a physicist, has actively worked as a technical consultant for F-CLEAN™ for the last 5 years. He will continue to work with AGC to realize a better path for the earth.
"AGC is a company that provides excellent materials as well as a wonderful business opportunity, and I believe that the company is able to offer more direct applicable system solutions related to food and energy for securing the basic needs of many people on this planet. F-CLEAN™ is the key material for such kind of system solutions. Our Blue Planet needs it urgently!
For the future, I want to appeal teaching our children about a respectful interaction with our biosphere and about the responsible usage of the resources nature gives us for free.
We have it in hands – we can make our Blue Planet a peaceful place for all earthlings. Then, it could be a world where all humans have enough water, food, energy and shelter. Together with AGC I feel strong enough about my contribution to make this dream happen!