Photovoltaic greenhouses owned by EF SOLARE ITALIA: technology embraces tradition and becomes innovation.

The Riviera of the Cedars

“A thousand years ago cedars grew under straw mats and canopies, now ‘the fruit of the most beautiful tree’ sprouts in photovoltaic greenhouses. Technology embraces tradition and becomes innovation”: this is the summary provided by the Antonio Lancellotta to describe Alma Sybaris, Alma Lao and Alma Bruca  greenhouses. Their photovoltaic plants are among those traditionally owned by EF Solare Italia. These greenhouses extend across the famous Riviera of the Cedars in the province of Cosenza, which overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea. The greenhouses are managed by two agricultural companies, Lao Greenhouse and Sybaris Greenhouse. In 2011 they were established by local partners thanks to the extensive experience they had developed over the years. Nowadays Antonio has joined the companies too: “I thought I would do something else in life, but working outdoors, managing and experiencing new things, is a real challenge today”.

Some years ago after an experience in the development of photovoltaic energy, the two agricultural companies partners decided to bring together their expertise and build photovoltaic greenhouses, with panels on the coverings. In this way the plant didn’t steal ground from cultivations. This project was carried out together with Holding Fotovoltaica, which was absorbed by EF Solare Italia by the end of 2016. All activities in a photovoltaic environment are carried out on a total surface area of about 27 acres. Here different varieties of lemon, white blossoms, Lunario lemon, ernandine clementines, mandalate hybrid mandarin, and the famous smooth Diamond cedar, are produced. Some cedars are grown combining traditional technologies with experimental methodologies, in order to keep alive the thousand-year tradition of the holy cedar harvested by Rabbis. The Bible experts claim that the cedar is quoted about sixty-six times in the Sacred Scriptures, and in the Jewish religion it represents the “Perì ‘etz adar”, “the fruit of the most beautiful tree”.

It is no coincidence that Rabbis from all over the world arrange meetings every summer in Santa Maria del Cedro. Together with the local farmers, they select one by one the best cedars for the Feast of Booths (“Sukkoth”). This “selectors” Rabbis then distribute cedars around the world. “Some old-age Jews”, said Antonio, “who I met by chance during a trip to the United States with my father, knew Santa Maria, a small 5,000 people-community in the heart of the Riviera of the Cedars, because they had bought the pure cedars of Calabria“.

Currently Lao and Sybaris Greenhouse are among the first cedar growers of the area: for this reason and for the innovative cultivation system in photovoltaic greenhouses, some time ago they received visits from 50 primary and secondary school students coming from Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. The other local cedar growers are curious too. They are showing a growing interest in this new cultivation system: “over the last year”, said Antonio “there was a frost in the Riviera of the Cedars. Something that had not occurred for about 70 years. Lao Greenhouse has contributed to maintaining the cedar tradition by giving to local cedar growers the cedar cutting branches for free. The cedars on the field were unfortunately destroyed, whereas those under the greenhouses managed to survive”.

Over the years the companies have been carrying out intense experimentation activities through the help of qualified agronomists, in collaboration with the University of Calabria and Netafim’s support. The latter is a leading company in innovative agricultural techniques which optimises cultivation cycles in a critical environment such as that of photovoltaic greenhouses. Based on the experimentation results, some cultivation protocols have been developed which can be used for both doing some other cultivation practice in similar environments, and moving the same cultivations to areas of the Country with the same soil and climate conditions.

The innovative practice in the photovoltaic greenhouses of EF Solare Italia does not involve only electricity, but also agriculture: “all phenological stages of cultivations”, said Antonio, “can be managed remotely through a simple click”.

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