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Tropical Fruits Grown In South Dakota
Avocados, date palms, and novel fruits like lowquats, soursops and cherimoya are flourishing in a passively heated South Dakota greenhouse. Shannon Mutschelknaus grows common leaf crops, tomatoes and more in his greenhouse, too. Based on initial results, the only question is how big his next greenhouse will be.
“I don’t have a big desire for common fruit like bananas, but soursop (related to pawpaw, but more tart) has a shelf life of only a couple of days, and you can’t get it shipped here,” says Mutschelknaus. “Most people don’t even know about many fruits and vegetables grown in tropical areas. My cherimoya is probably the first one ever grown in South Dakota.”
He designed an above-ground greenhouse with an insulated rear wall, passive solar heat, and an in-ground “climate battery”. With the help of a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant, he built it.
“I did all the labor myself, and the materials were under $20,000. That included some monitoring equipment for data collection,” says Mutschelknaus.
The end product is a 16 by 28-ft., 12-ft. high rear wall/front glazing with a half gable roof peak of 18 ft. He used triple-walled polycarbonate with an R-value of 3 to 4 (close to that of a house window) for the glazing.
“I used aluminum trusses for the south facing wall and wood for the north half,” says Mutschelknaus. The width to depth is based on having the north side and roof shaded to reduce the amount of sunlight in the summer.”
The half gable roof is designed to capture heat for the hot air intake heat exchanger. It also has passive exhaust vents on the vertical face. An electric fan pulls the captured hot air from the roof and pushes it through an in-ground heat exchanger in the climate battery beneath the greenhouse.
The greenhouse has been operating since January 1, 2020. Mutschelknaus was eating fresh lettuce from it in February and had tomatoes blooming in March. He devoted half of it to food production and half to tropical plants for sale. So far, it has met his expectations.
“It moved us from zone 4 to zone 10 in plant production,” says Mutschelknaus. “My sensors demonstrated that on a sunny, cold day (-23°F) on February 13, it cost only 77˘ a day to heat. The day before it was 29°F and cloudy, and it cost only 20˘."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Shannon Mutschelknaus, 47713 209th St., Aurora, S. Dak. (ph 605 695-0663; shannon.mutschelknaus@gmail.com; www.facebook.com/waywardsprings).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1