TRAINING ENGINEERS FOR WORK IN PLANT ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH - SOME ASPECTS OF THE TEACHING WORK OF THE NATIONAL COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING

B. Chandler, B.C. Stenning
There can be no doubt that a very great change has taken place, in the past two decades, in the equipment that is used by research workers and in protected cropping, and we can confidently predict that the development of such equipment and techniques will continue indefinitely. One does not have to look far for examples of recent developments. The manual control for opening and closing glasshouse ventilators, is being superseded by automatic equipment operating according to some predetermined pattern; the simple thermometer is being replaced by sensing devices which are amenable to connection with automatic control equipment, and these controllers are being used to actuate motorised valves of one sort or another. Widespan glasshouses with their advantages of increased light transmission and ease of working are only possible because engineering ideas and design principles have been applied to this type of structure, making possible the reduction of the amount of opaque material incorporated in them. It is not appropriate here to speculate about the future of the commercial glasshouse industry, but there are many possible avenues of progress; and none of these is likely to involve equipment that will be any simpler than that existing today.

Turning to the research stations and institutes that serve this changing industry, we are sure that all those who have been associated with them over a number of years and those of us who have joined the industry more recently will know how great are the changes which have taken place in research equipment, research techniques and in the way in which we go about developing ideas for incorporation by the industry. It is no longer possible for the handyman or carpenter to "knock up" in an hour or two the sort of equipment we are using for our research work: equipment which often requires very careful design and choice of materials and requires to be assembled in accurate way which will guarantee reliability and predictability. This sort of equipment can only be produced efficiently by the application of engineering principles taken largely from mechanical and electrical disciplines so that the equipment has a reasonable chance of being right from the beginning, rather than being produced on a trial and error basis. Much research equipment of course is produced specially for some particular project and not for general production. In such cases, the limitation of time and money usually precludes extensive development, so that however carefully the equipment may have been designed there will probably be snags in using it in day to day operation. Many of the senior research workers in the horticultural field have of necessity, become expert in the design of equipment for their own use, but the increasing complexity of most aspects of instrumentation and control introduces serious problems for the new entrant to the industry, particularly if he is a biologist, botanist, horticulturist or of some similar specialised field. His training will in no way fit him to use much of the equipment which is available, and certainly he will be in a very difficult position when it comes to modifying it or designing new

Chandler, B. and Stenning, B.C. (1968). TRAINING ENGINEERS FOR WORK IN PLANT ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH - SOME ASPECTS OF THE TEACHING WORK OF THE NATIONAL COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING. Acta Hortic. 7, 193-198
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1968.7.23
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1968.7.23
7_23
193-198

Acta Horticulturae