Retractable roofs are being used to protect fruit and vegetable crops from losses due to extreme weather conditions, providing increased quality and yield. “When we started in the retractable greenhouse segment, most of our business came from Canada, the US, Mexico,” says Richard Vollebregt, President of Cravo Equipment. Then we expanded into Europe, Australia and New Zealand. “However, our objective is not to recreate nature in a closed greenhouse in a cold climate. We believe that growers in dry & hot as well as dry & humid climates can achieve better financial results by combining the natural outdoors with climate optimization.”
As a result of this mindset and the benefits growers in hot climates are experiencing from retractable roofs, Cravo has seen a rapid geographic expansion in demand for its roof systems. “We are seeing a tremendous uptick in orders from the Middle East & North Africa, India, and the Caribbean Islands,” shared Vollebregt. The company started supplying retractable roof systems in the Middle East three years ago, and in India five years ago, but is seeing the biggest increase in terms of sales this year. “The importance of having access to food has become increasingly prevalent during this global pandemic and food security has become top of mind.”
Tropical conditions plus hurricane protection
Food security is also becoming more important in the Caribbean islands where growers face rain combined with hot humid conditions and the ever-increasing risk of hurricanes resulting in investors placing orders in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico for vegetable production. “Our retractable cooling houses have proven to be able to create good growing conditions when it is hot and humid and have survived being hit by 16 hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. The reinforced polyethylene roof coverings can’t blow off since they are suspended below stainless-steel wires and the hectares of roofs can be retracted in minutes if the windspeed is forecast to exceed the design load of the house.
MENA region and India
In the Middle East, North Africa, and India, growers face challenges due to hot conditions where water and electricity are in short supply or are expensive. “We are now seeing large investors purchasing Cravo retractable greenhouses as part of their investment strategy. These companies want to invest in the food industry and increase food supply while using minimal electricity and water for cooling.”
Those large-scale production facilities are looking to increase local food production in an accelerated and cost-effective way. “Our retractable greenhouses fit well in the strategies of large-scale production environments that are looking to achieve results quickly,” added Vollebregt. Cravo is now building houses in Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia for berry, vegetable and tree fruit production. In India, the company is building a 45 hectare (115 acre) project which will be one continuous building all under one retractable roof for berry production.
Impact of COVID-19
“In the past seven months since COVID hit, new installations that were in process at the start of the pandemic were not significantly impacted by the travel bans as our houses are normally installed by local builders” Vollebregt commented. “Early in the pandemic, we saw a reduction in new orders as businesses scrambling to understand how they would be impacted by the pandemic. Once it became clear that agriculture was one of the industries that was going to benefit from the pandemic, and that it was critical to address food security issues, we experienced a rapid, sudden increase in the size and number of orders starting in August. We have closed more work in the last quarter than at any other quarter in our 43-year history.”