Welcome to the Real World!

Warning: This is a disturbing post – despite the allusion to The Matrix in the title it is – really – about the real world only.

Hardly any geekiness included.

In order to compensate for that I will craft a short search term poem – this time exclusively from yesterday’s search terms:

the universe is antifragile

gut tube formation
alien themed control panels

heat pumps with elements

The last line has already anticipated what I am going to reveal in this post: It is about an element of a heat pump system – and its added benefit in agriculture.

Other readers of my blog have discovered my German blog – so I have to come out as a tomato addict.

Solar collector and tomatoes
Our solar collector used as an espalier for tomato plants

The solar collector featured in this post is very versatile: In winter energy for heating is harvested from the ambient air via convection but radiation is not that important. In summer time you need to heat hot water only and there is too much energy available anyway. Thus it isn’t an issue to cover the collector with leaves and tomatoes – and it can be used as an espalier  [marketing pitch] combining the beauty of nature with the sleek appeal of sophisticated technology [/marketing].

I have been asked if this is useful for greenhouse operators: The answer is unfortunately No as even in summer it extracts heat from the air (and the tomatoes). There is only one special mode of operation that would ‘heat’ the plants (a bit – I haven’t done simulations on this):

The energy harvested by the collector is deposited to a water tank – the heat source of the heat pump. This tank is used for passive cooling in summer: Floor heating becomes floor cooling. Heating of hot water is beneficial as heat is extracted from the tank.

If there is an intermittent ‘cold’ period in summer the cooling capacity can be increased by actually cooling the tank through the collector – you would run the collector pump in the ‘cold’ night. Thus if the air is much cooler than the tank than the collector would cool the tank and ‘heat’ the tomatoes.

But this is a rare condition and most likely not accountable for the incredible ‘output’ in terms of tomatoes. These are 13 plants – 13 different varieties with funny names as Green Zebra and Black Plum. The most prolific one is Gelbe Dattelwein (Translates to Yellow Date Wine, most of the other names are English ones anyway).

According to superficial googling ‘health’ and ‘tomatoes’ eating about 1 kg tomatoes a day does not have negative side effects.

We bought the plants from Arche Noah (Noah’s Ark), a society whose vision it is to work on bringing traditional and rare varieties into gardens and on the market again.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. bert0001 says:

    heat pumps with elkements … that would be disturbing :-)

    1. elkement says:

      :-) Yes, because it would mean that Google gas finally accepted ‘elkement’ as a valid search term – instead of asking ‘Did you search for elements?’

      1. bert0001 says:

        I never searched for elkement, but I always find you :-)

  2. You’re the first tomato addict I’ve met. who Knew?! Your versatility never ceases to amaze ;)

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks Judy :-) I think where I live (sunny Pannonian Plain) everybody is a tomato addict!
      Sorry for the delayed reply – I am a very busy master student these days ;-)

  3. Great post. Maurice is right … only you could combine discussions of thermodynamics and agriculture. Those are wonderfully prolific (and obviously, very happy) plants. I wonder whether the combined biomass puts undue stress on the panels which make up the collector?

    1. elkement says:

      Those plants are really heavy, you are right – but the collector consists of flexible tubes and the frame is firmly grounded :-) The biggest problem currently is to consume all those tomatoes – they are more prolific than expected!

  4. Hi Elke it’s a pleasure to see you back in the sort-of-real world. Even more so to see you, once again, playing with thermodynamics and food–an awesome combination if ever there was one. I must admit to having never seen anything like this.
    But not disturbing. FASCINATING is the word I would use here :-)

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Maurice! Ha – so this is really original? We should file a patent then – ‘Using an unglazed solar collector to grow espalier tomatoes’.

      1. It’s totally new to me!
        Now: how do they taste? :-)

        1. elkement says:

          Especially the yellow ones and the small ‘black’ ones are sweet – they rather taste like berries or plums. Above all, they all taste really different.

          1. Mmmmm. One of my favourite things to eat is pasta–any kind–tossed with a pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes. To round It out I like some oregano, chopped-up fresh tomato (any kind) and chopped black olives. Sprinkle with some cheese–just about anything (except blue cheese: I HATE blue cheese. There’s a story there.) will make me happy but I like Gouda best.

            1. elkement says:

              I get hungry again! Which is amazing – after eating so many tomatoes every day! I also like to eat tomatoes with olive oil – and nothing else!

            2. Sprinkle ’em with Oregano or Svouury as well as the olive oil. You’ll never do it any other way again :-)

  5. M. Hatzel says:

    I guess I was thinking that the greenhouses could run your system in the cooler months to extend their growing season by heating the buildings, and in summer owners could plant on the collectors. I suspect that the structures would give some shelter, and allow for efficient space with their vertical structures. Cucumbers might not like being cooled down, though. :) Do you notice if the collectors help to collect dew from moisture in the air?

    I love those yellow tomatoes. I grew some that looked like yours a few years ago from a package of mixed “heirloom” seeds that I purchased from a company in eastern Canada. Individual varieties were not named, and I have yet to find seeds to replicate the experience. (Your post will help with that, too.)

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Michelle! Your question about dew is very interesting – but we haven’t measured this effect so I don’t dare to hypothesize. If parts of the plants in direct contact with the collector I would assume that you should see more dew condensing – but it is difficult to estimate the overall impact on the other parts of the plants.

      Yes, those yellow ones are the sweetest – I wonder if you could create wine from them? (After all, their name is ‘date wine’? They nearly taste like berries!
      This is a better photo (from our ‘supplier’): http://shop.arche-noah.at/index.php/saatgut/cocktailtomaten/dattelwein.html – but not all of them are that pear-shaped. We are most impressed by the crop – the tomatoes are small, but soooo many!

      1. M. Hatzel says:

        Yes, those are the ones. :)
        I won’t give you anymore questions right now… I’ve noticed in the feeds from your Twitter that you’re preparing for exams!

        1. elkement says:

          I will be back in September – but I needed a break (from the online break) today :-)

          1. M. Hatzel says:

            I haven’t been on-line a lot this summer, so it’s been a pleasant coincidence to have this exchange today. I also needed to shift my focus for a few hours and visit social media. It is interesting how too much on-line socializing can create a ‘living in my head’ feeling, but it also helps to widen my perspective and knock me out of my ruts.

            1. elkement says:

              … and I haven’t come to a final conclusion related to my pseudo-offline experience. Probably I was not really consequent enough! Currently I am looking forward to spending more time online again!

            2. M. Hatzel says:

              I think because I write, and then write on-line in my non-work time, there becomes an odd jumble of work over-load. Thus, I should consider a different hobby, perhaps and take up orchid breeding or yoga instead. :)

  6. nico nieuwendijk says:

    Fascinating, the many kinds of tomatoes. There are some hobby-farmers in Holland doing the same; growing things as natural as possible, from the old varieties.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks. Nico! Yes, our tomatoes are hardcore bio, organic, natural :-) No treatment except watering – I was baffled that it seems to be so easy. But probably we were lucky because of the hot summer – I have read tomato plants are susceptible to putridity when it is too wet.

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